MOORHEAD — Superintendents from Moorhead, Fargo and West Fargo — all relatively new to their jobs — provided snapshots of their respective school districts during an Eggs & Issues gathering here on Tuesday, Sept. 10.
Beth Slette, superintendent of West Fargo Public Schools, noted the district is now the first school district in the state to have an electric school bus.
"It's a quiet, lovely bus," Slette told attendees at Tuesday's breakfast, which was hosted by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce.
Slette also said that due to its rapid growth, the school district is struggling to find school bus drivers and she invited any interested audience members to apply.
"Anyone? Anyone? Really not kidding," Slette said, adding that the district's growth creates other challenges as well.
Perhaps chief among them, she said, is funding, which she said is an issue because the district's funding is based on the number of students served during the previous school year, even though each new school year brings many more students to the district.
Fargo Public Schools Superintendent Rupak Gandhi said his district faces similar hurdles, adding that the funding question is particularly critical given the district's need for additional buildings, particularly on the city's south side, where the most growth is occurring.
Gandhi pointed out that with about 3,300 employees, the Fargo School District is the fourth largest employer in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
Gandhi, Slette and Brandon Lunak, superintendent of Moorhead Area Public Schools, all said that collaboration is a major priority for their districts, as is an emphasis on social and emotional learning.
Lunak said the latter means training all of the district's employees, including bus drivers and food service workers, on the importance of recognizing that many students today come to school having experienced some type of trauma in their lives.
Understanding that reality, Lunak said, helps every district worker in creating a compassionate environment for students to learn in.
Slette agreed, stating that some of the district's youngest students have experienced things adults "would find it hard to cope with."
Asked by an audience member what the community can do to help children learn, Gahndi had a ready answer.
He said although the Fargo district currently doesn't have a referendum pending, he said whenever one appears on an election ballot the answer should always be "yes."