School Board Q&A
Question 1: Why are you running for election/re-election, and what qualities do you possess that will help serve the West Fargo School Board?
Gail Flom: I am interested in joining the West Fargo School Board to not only become more involved in the community but to be a part of the changes and developments of the new schools. I have two children in the West Fargo Schools and I value their education. I have been the President of the Federal Executive Association for three years and I know firsthand that it is refreshing to have new people join our association.
I believe that my experience as a criminal investigator has taught me to "think outside the box." In my position it is critical to ask all of the questions and gather the facts before making a recommendation. I am outgoing and energetic and I feel I can be a successful member of the West Fargo School Board.
Kay Kiefer: My first term on the school board was spent largely in securing strong, new leadership in the district, as well as obtaining permission from the taxpayers to provide much-needed space for our students. I am looking forward to the opportunity to spend time on the real reason that we are all here - to ensure the best academic environment possible for the youth in our community. I have learned a great deal about how education 'works' and am anxious to begin work on helping our kids achieve more. I am a good listener, am able to think independently and am not afraid to say the difficult things that sometimes need to be said in a school board setting.
Jeff Shirley: I am running again to help insure that the mission, vision and goals of earlier years continue on in the best interest of the children while providing diligent stewardship of the resources of the stakeholders of the District. West Fargo Public Schools has robust strategic plan and I would like to help ensure that it comes to fruition.
In the spring of 1997 I was appointed to fulfill the remaining one-year term of a West Fargo Public Schools board member who had resigned. I subsequently served an additional 5 ½ years on the board as a director; and eventually as chair, and found it to be one of the most rewarding experiences I had encountered in my life. During those years I had the opportunity to be involved in extensive discussion, planning and decisions that have shaped the District into the successful organization that exists today. I moved out of the District and had to resign from the board in 2003, but continued to pay close attention to the activities there. I knew that if I was ever afforded the opportunity, I would again attempt to become involved with West Fargo Schools. I am again living within the District boundaries and hope to continue on the path that I once had to leave behind. The West Fargo School District has a history of great leadership at all levels and gave my now grown children a wonderful educational experience that helped shape them into the adults they are today. My infant child will become a student in the District and I would like to take part in planning for the future of the West Fargo School District.
My qualities are experience, compassion and common sense. I believe that everyone matters and I will listen to any reasonable discussion regarding solutions to any given issue. I have the ability to gain trust and garner consensus through thoughtful, respectful debate and I come to the table with no agenda other than that of the best interests of the students and stakeholders we serve.
In any of those discussions, my first question will be (and has been) "How will this benefit our students?" I will expect a straightforward answer on which to help derive a decision.
Patti Stedman: I consider myself a good listener and communicator which have allowed me to be a good facilitator in meetings. I like to listen to all the discussions before forming an opinion. I am also dedicated and like to see projects completed
Shelley Treib: I have been interested in running ever since my children started school in West Fargo. I want to be more involved in decisions made in regards to the education of their future. As the Budget Manager of the ND Soybean Council, I would bring my financial and business background to the board. Also, being and employee of the state of ND this will be beneficial.
Question 2: During the 2015-16 school years, West Fargo will be home to a second high school. What steps do you think need to be taken in order for students, staff and community members to successfully transition to a two high school town?
Flom: We will have to balance opportunities for all of our students. For example, if there are unique courses currently offered at the West Fargo High School that we may not be able to offer immediately at Sheyenne High School, we will have to develop a plan for those classes to also be available to the Sheyenne High School students?
It will be a tough transition initially; however, I feel that if we promote our new high school as a positive thing and enhanced opportunities for our students, the transition will be a success. I see our new high school as an opportunity to keep our class numbers at manageable numbers and an opportunity for more students to take part in the various athletic programs. It will be important for us to embrace the changes and keep the community informed of the impact these changes will have on the education and future of our children.
Kiefer: I believe that some of the hardest work is behind us - as West Fargo has acknowledged that our student population is (and will be) more than can be handled effectively in one high school setting. As we walk into the future, with the new reality of two high schools, we need to continue to communicate with one another at all levels. We need to be honest about our struggles and our frustrations and we need to be able to cooperate and compromise when necessary. Change is difficult - there can be no denying that. But, the reality is that West Fargo has grown and is not longer the West Fargo of years ago. We can maintain our unique culture and character, even as we grow, if we are willing and able to talk to one another and work toward common ground.
Shirley: In my opinion, the single most important step is for the board, administration and staff to promote a philosophy that even with a second high school, West Fargo Public Schools is still one district. It would be best for the district as a whole to avoid a North/South or "us versus them" culture. Cross-communication between staff, administration, the board, and most importantly, the stakeholders will be the key to a successful transition whether at the elementary, middle or high school levels.
Stedman: Since West Fargo has been a one high school city since the beginning, the transition to two high schools will be a new process for everyone. However, I believe that process has already begun with the community, students, staff and parents. To facilitate the eventual changes, we expect to first begin transitioning student activities into two groups even before the new schools are open. This will give students the opportunity to practice and play together in various activities beforehand rather than having all this occur in one year. Hiring the appropriate staff and putting those people in place prior to opening the new schools will also help ensure a smoother transition.
Treib: I came from a two high school city and we did fine. We were smaller so there will be difference. I think with the growth and the overcrowding we have in the high school now, the students, staff and members of the community will transition very well. I believe with all the efforts to keep everyone informed about when the school is to open, as well as the boundaries are identified early enough, the acceptance will there.
Question 3: How will you ensure that academics and co-curricular activities stay balanced between West Fargo High School and Sheyenne High School?
Flom: Keeping an even balance will be the biggest challenge. We may have to be somewhat "co-mingled" in some areas until we have balanced enrollments in both schools and the resources available to offer the same programs at both schools. We will need to incorporate new and innovative ideas on how to keep it balanced.
I feel that if we, as members of the school board, keep open communication with the staff, students and the community, we will be able to get input from those that the changes affect the most.
We will need a handle on enrollment numbers; numbers of individuals interested in specific co-curricular activities and allow time to solicit input and ideas to have a plan in place before we open the doors of the new high school.
Kiefer: That process has already begun. Before, during and after the successful bond referendum, school board members and district administration engaged the community in discussions around how to provide our students with outstanding academic and co-curricular offerings. Those discussions were tempered by discussions around budgetary realities. We want to provide the students in West Fargo with the very best - but we also need to make sure that the community is able to bear the financial weight of those offerings.
Shirley: As a member of a policy board I would work to ensure that policies providing equity among multiple high schools are updated or put into place and administered properly.
Stedman: Our administrators are in the preliminary stages of assessing the classes, scheduling, etc. for the two schools, and these processes will continue to take shape in the months ahead. Going forward, we anticipate providing the ability for students to potentially take classes at both schools. This will not only help the two schools stay balanced but will also provide more opportunities for students in both academics and co-curricular activities.
Treib: This needs to be done as if any other school is being built. We have to be aware that we will have staff that wants to move to a new school, but not all can go and we need to make sure that the staff that is replace and the new staff are qualified.
Question 4: What additional issues need to be addressed within West Fargo Public Schools, and how do you propose to fix them?
Flom: Plans for the STEM program and the AVID program will need to be considered. These are two unique systems in place that impact a small part of our student population, however, they are great programs and we need to find a way to keep them in our educational plan. We may have to increase the number of students allowed to participate in the AVID program to keep it balanced between the two schools. Maybe this will be one those programs that will be designated for one of the high schools which may require participants to attend a school other than their designated school based on their residence.
There could be some potential issues related to transportation to account for additional stops. We may be required to hire additional drivers and maintain more buses or maybe our buses will make stops at more than one school. All of these areas will have to be considered in detail based on enrollment numbers at each particular school and the transportation needs.
There will be the obvious need for additional coaching staff and equipment for co-curricular activities. These will need to be worked into the budget as we move forward.
Kiefer: Our district needs to focus in on student achievement. Students should leave our district prepared for the larger world that they encounter - regardless of whether that is further education or the skilled job market. The current board is committed to improving student achievement and is working on ways to change the current culture within the district to accomplish just that.
Shirley: We must continue to focus on solid educational fundamentals for each of our students, thereby drawing a path to advanced studies where applicable, alternative studies where desired or remedial studies where needed. Each student matters and this District has the capacity to truly leave no one behind without the need for federally imposed mandates. After that, I believe the most pertinent priority is proactive planning for the ever increasing and shifting student population of the District. Individual school boundaries cannot be viewed as static and the board and administration need to consistently convey that message. These, as with all issues, can be "fixed" with open discussion, debate and divergent thinking.
Stedman: West Fargo has grown tremendously over the last ten years and continues to be one of the fastest growing cities in North Dakota. That growth has brought its own set of challenges to our school district in providing high quality education for our children, but the district has both short-term and long-term plans in place to accommodate the City's future growth.
Treib: The biggest issue I see is the meals that are served, these meals are not nutritious or balanced. Lots of the meals that are being fed to the elementary students are considered fast food. It has been reported a lot about how childhood obesity rates are sky rocketing. So I do not see why the schools are attributing to this epidemic. I have always believed that if a child is to at least get one nutritious meal the schools should be providing it, especially since health class is a big part of the curriculum.