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Dr. Dana Diesel Wallace announced her resignation at Monday night's West Fargo school board meeting. David Samson/The Forum

Diesel Wallace to step down

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On Monday night, the West Fargo School Board meeting was held at the STEM Center.

A fitting location, as Superintendent Dr. Dana Diesel Wallace, one of the biggest proponents of the school, chose it to announce her surprise resignation effective June 30, 2010.

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The school board unanimously approved her letter of resignation, which comes 3½ years into her tenure.

"New challenges through new opportunities have presented themselves to me and I am eager to pursue them," Diesel Wallace wrote in her letter of resignation.

But Diesel Wallace doesn't plan to coast during the remainder of her time with the West Fargo School District.

"There is a lot of good work still to do," she said Monday night. "There will be no slowing down on my part."

"It has been a pleasure to serve as the superintendant of West Fargo Public Schools," Diesel Wallace said in her letter. "Our board and staff have produced a number of remarkable achievements for our students."

Some of these achievements were the district's first strategic plan, which resulted in nearly accomplishing Goal 2011 two years ahead of schedule. Diesel Wallace also noted that now more than 96 percent of students are achieving academic growth compared with 50 percent just three years ago.

The growth "is a testament to what can happen with clear vision, unrelenting action of committed staff, and a focus on continuous improvement," she wrote.

The STEM Center, AVID, SHAC, Early College High School and the Newcomer and Immersion Centers are all firsts in North Dakota that were spurred by Diesel Wallace.

The shock of the announcement was apparent by the reaction of the school board members, as each gave their "aye" of approval to Diesel Wallace's letter of resignation.

"It's been a time of big change for West Fargo," said School Board President Thomas Gentzkow of Diesel Wallace's term as superintendent.

Diesel Wallace first came to the school district from North Carolina in 2006. Almost immediately, she implemented widespread changes that some say came too soon. The most vocal of this group has been the West Fargo Education Association, which repeatedly said her leadership has caused friction and low morale among staff members.

On Monday night, WFEA President Joan Connor sent out the following e-mail statement: "As the school district leader, Dr. Wallace never gained the respect and trust from the professional staff and community. Her resignation offers to the West Fargo School District opportunities to refocus on what are in the best interests of the students."

The school board will begin searching for a new superintendent to replace Diesel Wallace.

Board approves curriculum changes for 2010-11

Also at Monday's school board meeting, members unanimously approved several curriculum changes for the 2010-11 school year.

These changes include eight additional classes and three modifications to current courses.

Though most of the additional class requirements can be met by teachers already working within the district, Assistant Superintendent Louise Dardis said a science teacher will be needed for the implementation of two courses: Applied Biology and Field Biology. These classes are being put in place to help cover science credits for students who struggle academically.

Other courses being implemented will be ELL Environmental Science, Fundamentals of Art and Ceramics I. Community Plus One and AVID are being offered to prepare students for life after high school. A pilot class, Guitar, is also getting started for students interested in music, but who may not want to be involved in an organized choir, band or orchestra.

By Dardis' estimation, the total cost of the changes will be $83,700. The bulk of that, $51,500, will be toward the hiring of a secondary science teacher.

More transportation changes

The school board approved two changes to the current transportation arrangement within the West Fargo School District.

The first was that of three bids provided for the purchase of a 59-passenger bus for the 2010-11 school year. Trucks of Bismarck and Hartlow's Bus Sales, also of Bismarck, and Hartley's School Buses, of Rugby, provided the three bids.

Brad Redmond, West Fargo transportation director, also asked the board to approve an anti-idling program designed to protect students from excessive diesel and gas exhaust emissions. The board approved the program, which is part of the ARRA Clean Diesel Grant Application.

With the grant, the school district will receive $40,000 to go toward the purchase of a new bus, as long as the old bus is scrapped.

The program requires busses to idle for set periods of time in respect to the outside temperature: five minutes or less at 32 degrees or higher, 10 minutes or less between -10 and 32 degrees, and 15 minutes or less when the temperature reaches -10 or below.

Implementation of the anti-idling program also could save the district roughly $4,500 annually, Redmond said.

Notes

• The consent agenda was approved Monday night, but article 7D was sent back. The article - which was a second reading and adoption of Board Policy 6-1000, Video Surveillance and Recording in Schools - came into question by Board Director Angela Korsmo. She wondered whether the wording under subsection 4 about an individual or organization identifying themselves "if they choose" was appropriate. Korsmo also wondered what steps would be needed when a recording was released; for example if a copy was to be made or the original was to be given instead. The board agreed to send the article back to the policy committee for reevaluation.

• The Administrative Salary Committee gained approval of salary changes, but not before Korsmo asked why some salaries were increased by such large amounts while others were not. For instance, one Special Ed Coordinator position was given a 13.36 percent increase while another was handed a 20.41 percent increase. This is compared to an average of 3.2 percent to 4.5 percent for other positions. School Board Vice President Karen Nitzkorski said the changes were necessary to get salaries up to appropriate levels. "There was a strong argument made that we've gotten many coordinators at a bargain," she said. "These jobs have come a very long way ... to what we have now."

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