CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Dickinson Public School district plans to move forward with plans for a new high school in 2020. Although the district plans to move forward with a new high school in the future, no dates have been set, and Superintendent Shon Hocker confirms that the date will not be this year.
From budget and staff cuts to renovations and exploding population, Dickinson’s education faces new challenges and old problems.
The State of the City luncheon, organized by the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce, kicked off with an address by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum as community members packed Dickinson State University’s Henry Biesiot Activities Center.
Dickinson State University President Stephen Easton, Dickinson Public Schools Superintendent Shon Hocker, Trinity Catholic Schools President Steve Glasser and Hope Christian Academy Administrator Shane Bradley were among the notable speakers who painted a picture of changes.
Dickinson State University
Dickinson State University President Stephen Easton addressed the state of the university, calling it a trying and challenging time — but one of future optimism and hope.
He mentioned the budget deficit and the resulting budget cuts of nearly $7 million, $5.3 million of which were from the current biennium.
Easton mentioned renovations to Pulver Hall, which include transitioning the top three floors back to a dorm, one floor for classrooms and a studio, one floor for office space and one floor for museum space, which will house the digitization project.
“It’s a matter of taking documents and tagging them with words that will allow researchers to find the documents that they need related to specific events related to Theodore Roosevelt’s life. It is stunningly important work,” Easton said. “That will become the scholarly and research arm of the presidential library.”
Additionally, he mentioned the sports complex proposal and the university’s dual-mission.
Hope Christian Academy
Bradley addressed increasing enrollment numbers prompting the completion of the campus’ new K-12 building. According to him, the building was built with technology in mind and has contributed greatly to Hope Christian Academy’s success this year.
Looking to 2020, Hope Christian Academy are making developmental changes centered on their core values and with computer technology, individualized Christian curriculum, interactive computer video enhanced learning, and one-on-one teacher/student relationships at the forefront of their plans.
“Principles of Christian leadership, self-discipline, individual responsibility, personal integrity, and good citizenship are still taught at Hope Christian Academy,” Bradley said. “The purpose of Hope Christian Academy is to teach that the Lord Jesus Christ is preeminent in every aspect of life, including education. This comprehensive principle underlies every aspect of academic study, each activity, and all of school life.”
Trinity Catholic Schools
Glasser began his address by saying that the state of Trinity Catholic Schools is good, and that the school has achieved many successes over the previous year.
“After the fire, we lost our identity for a bit,” Glasser said. “We’ve recentered our mission and vision toward living our core values.”
According to Glasser, Trinity has seen a 15% growth goal shattered in the third through sixth grades where the school boasted a 60% growth in 2019.
Glasser then provided academic statistics marking the success of Trinity over the previous year, including a cumulative graduating GPA of 3.42 for students, an 86% higher education attainability and a record 98.3% graduation rate.
Trinity boasted no reportable incidents of violence over three years on campus.
Among the touted achievements were seven alumni who have become ordained Catholic priests; 14 individual awards during the Best of the Western Edge, including best place to work; and a 47% masters degree amongst faculty.
“Most pleasing was that we have 94.5% of our students involved in extracurricular activities at Trinity,” Glasser said. “More than that, 82%, were involved in more than one activity. I don’t know where they get the time, but it keeps them busy and that’s a good thing.”
Dickinson Public Schools
Hocker was next to address the crowd and was succinct in the problems, achievements and future plans of Dickinson Public Schools.
According to Hocker, the high school has approved moving forward with the freshman academy next school year. He also announced that the Success Academy, a program centered on students with mental health and behavioral issues, opened its doors Monday.
He said the district’s continued growth has been a challenge.
“Our exiting senior class is being replaced each year by an incoming kindergarten class that is double in size,” Hocker said.
To alleviate the burden that places on elementary schools, Hocker announced that the board would consider construction of a new elementary school which would require no tax increase for residents of Dickinson.
Hocker mentioned potential ways the district could reduce the amount of a future high school referendum.
“With the reveal of this partnership with DSU to move most of the high school outdoor activity areas to the campus of DSU, we’re anticipating significant savings that could be directly applied to a future high school referendum,” he said.
Hocker also mentioned the possibility of obtaining a matching grant from the state to build a career vocational center in Dickinson. The grant plus the partnership with DSU would further reduce the cost of a new school.
He also mentioned more immediate plans, including offering some early morning classes, college level courses at DSU and possibly renting space at DSU.