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District: Activities are a critical component in schools

Kay Kiefer, School Board President, and Dr. David Flowers, Superintendent, West Fargo Public Schools

For many students, activities are the magnet that engages them most meaningfully, and in some cases, is even what keeps them in school. During 2012-13, with a district enrollment of about 3,200 students in grades 7-12, about 1,852 of them (57 percent) participated in a sport or activity. Activities are a big deal—to students, parents and the community. It is important that our activities program has high standards, subject to the same continuous improvement mindset as our academic programs.

One of the biggest drivers of the May 2011 bond referendum was the desire on the part of our community to increase the opportunities for sports and activities. In a high school with 1,500 students, there are a very small numbers of students who get to compete on the varsity team in basketball, for example. With two high schools, potentially twice the number of students will get to participate on the basketball team, in the musical, the newspaper, the football program, etc. As we grow and “double the recipe,” it is important that we have the right ingredients in that recipe—high standards and a staff and community consensus about the type of positive experience we want every participant to have.

To that end, our School Board, our administrative team and representative members of the coaching staff have determined to take a systemic approach similar to what we have with the district strategic plan and the long-range facility planning process. A collaborative group of coaches, administrators and parents is being formed to design or adjust systems to make sure all participants, parents and coaches have a positive experience with our activities. The group will study and recommend coaching models grounded in a philosophy of positive relationships, respectful treatment and the modeling of high standards of behavior. Fair and consistent approaches to coach evaluations will be adopted and employed. Further, the group will review activities handbooks and seek ways to reinforce positive roles and responsibilities for parents and participants. We must have a culture in which participants and parents feel at liberty to question or express a concern directly to coaches. Additionally, students will have opportunities through anonymous surveys to provide feedback about their experience.

We want a culture in which every participant, regardless of talents, feels valued. Together we must reach consensus about the program standards we want to reflect to our community. Now is the time, as we grow into a district with two 9-12 high schools, to create a culture we are proud of, and one in which our participants see and demonstrate the highest forms of sportsmanship.