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State of the Schools: Growing as fast as the kids

Superintendent Beth Slette began her first annual state of the schools address with a video that details just how fast the workforce is changing and becoming inclusive of new technology and artificial intelligence.

Slette said the video wasn't meant to scare the nearly 100 parents, staff and community members, but to show them how much education can change in a short time.

"It gets us thinking about what school can be for our students," she said.

Slette said as the district builds more facilities, it is constantly looking for opportunities to include new learning environments while also making sure older buildings are updated and amended to offer equal opportunities to students.

"We can't make an old school look shiny new, but we can make sure they have the same quality and resources we have at other schools," Slette said.

While technology and online learning tools are used widely in the district, relationships built in the schools remain important, she said.

"If relationships don't matter, then we don't need schools anymore. What matters is building relationships and that social emotional learning. We need schools and we need relationships," Slette said.

West Fargo School District is the third largest in the state, but it will likely pass the No. 2-ranked Fargo Schools as early as next year. It currently has 24 facilities, including the nearly new hockey arena, Hulbert Aquatic Center and Lodoen Center, where the district's preschool program is located.

The district has 143 students enrolled in its public early childhood education, and that number is growing.

West Fargo School District currently employs about 64 administrators, 961 teachers, 31 professionals, 716 classified staff and 1,019 temporary staff like coaches, board members, lifeguards and nurses, for a total of 2,801 total employees. The school district is the largest in the Fargo area behind Sanford, North Dakota State University, Essentia and Fargo Schools.

The district enrolled nearly 11,000 students for the 2018-19 school year.

"We anticipate by the year 2021, the year the [third] high school opens, we will have 12,500 students," Slette said.

About 12.3 percent of students are in special education, and nearly 30 percent qualify for free and reduced-price lunch programs.

About 878 students speak English as their second language, and about 57 languages are spoken throughout the district.

After Slette's discussion, attendees were invited to give input in small groups regarding the future of the district, which she plans to share publicly in December.

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and at CBS in Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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