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Dickinson Public Schools lays out district goals; looks to concentrate on student achievements

“(So) less talk about purchasing school buses and putting shingles on roofs… Not that those don’t matter, but we’re all here for kids,” Superintendent Marcus Lewton said.

Superintendent Marcus Lewton addresses the Dickinson Public School Board during its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, May 9, 2022, at the Professional Learning Lab.
Superintendent Marcus Lewton addresses the Dickinson Public School Board during its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, May 9, 2022, at the Professional Learning Lab.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press
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DICKINSON — As the 2021-2022 school year closes in, Dickinson Public Schools is brainstorming ways to focus more on student achievements than on managerial functions.

During Monday's DPS Board monthly meeting, Superintendent Marcus Lewton noted the district’s three goals, which include increasing third grade reading proficiency and eighth grade math scores on the North Dakota State Assessment, as well as boosting choice ready percentages for graduates. Lewton noted that each goal is, “an important correlation,” to how students can excel throughout their time at DPS.

“(So) less talk about purchasing school buses and putting shingles on roofs… Not that those don’t matter, but we’re all here for kids,” Lewton said. “But then also allowing the board and superintendent to set clear boundaries in those, what they call guardrails, essentially.”

In his superintendent report, Lewton reported that he has met with the Cabinet to review goals, notifying staff via email on which way the district would like to move forward.

By the next DPS Board meeting on June 20, Lewton said that they should have something available for review.

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The Hagen Building is pictured.
The Hagen Building, pictured above, in Dickinson, houses several educational services, including Southwest Community High School, the Dickinson Adult Learning Center, West Dakota Parent and Family Resource Center and the Dickinson Public Schools Early Childhood Special Education program.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

Southwest Community High School celebrates 20 years

Reporting from the Hagen Building, Southwest Community High School Principal Kristina Goodall and Success Academy Paraprofessional Jeffrey Whitehead provided an update on the events, activities and other achievements that they do for students. Southwest Community High School is currently in its 20th year of operation.

“It’s hard to believe that we’ve had 20 years of serving the community of Dickinson,” Goodall said. “This year will mark 266 high school graduates that were at-risk for dropping out or otherwise not finishing high school and have found an opportunity at Southwest Community High School to do just that.”

The majority of students that attend the school either come from a broken or single-parent home, Whitehead noted.

Success Academy Paraprofessional Jeffrey Whitehead details the impact the Southwest Community High School has on the community and its youth during the Dickinson Public School Board meeting on Monday, May 9, 2022.
Success Academy Paraprofessional Jeffrey Whitehead details the impact the Southwest Community High School has on the community and its youth during the Dickinson Public School Board meeting on Monday, May 9, 2022.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

“I’m able to identify with that,” Whitehead said, explaining, “We talk to them openly about it. I was a single parent for quite some time and had an opportunity to understand the feelings and emotions of not only myself, but also the children that go through that. And as we open up that door and as they talk and as they give us an opportunity to share some different experiences, it’s absolutely amazing to see them come align.”

Some students have been able to utilize their education and experience at Southwest Community High School to go on and “be a very important part of the community and not a deterrent,” Whitehead added.

Educators focus on individualized instruction for each student, Goodall said, explaining that this allows teachers to meet student needs on a “student-by-student, skill-by-skill basis.”

“We embrace the philosophy of providing an environment where students can work on their own designed educational plan and a focused environment,” she said. “Each student's individual needs are taken into account and adjusted daily — even hourly, if necessary — and provided the supports necessary for their success. And this recipe allows for students to take personal responsibility in their learning as they work towards the goal of graduation and meeting the essential learning standards and skills that will align with our current state standards and requirements.”

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Currently, Southwest Community High School serves 34 Dickinson area students — 15 of which have finished their course work for the year. In total for the year, the school has seen the highest record yet at 63.

“Our goal is to serve a population of students who possess a variety of risk factors, including but not limited to dropping out due to loss of credits, students who are parents themselves as well as those that need an alternative setting or schedule to accommodate their own personal family situations. Or students who may not just not fit into the traditional high school mode socially as well as offering credit recovery opportunities,” she said.

Goodall noted that next year the school will take on the Roughrider Virtual Academy to assist those students with online services.

Region 8 Director Beth Hurt gives an update on the Dickinson Adult Learning Center to the Dickinson Public School Board on Monday, May 9, 2022, at the Professional Learning Lab.
Region 8 Director Beth Hurt gives an update on the Dickinson Adult Learning Center to the Dickinson Public School Board on Monday, May 9, 2022, at the Professional Learning Lab.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

More happening at Hagen, DPS

The school board heard two additional reports from the Hagen Building, following with the Dickinson Adult Learning Center. Region 8 Director Beth Hurt noted that the center currently has 47 GED students and 61 enrolled in English programs. Recently, the center added five refugees from Afghanistan, who were enrolled to receive some English lessons before summer. The West Dakota Parent and Family Resource Center also addressed the school board, noting that by the end of this school year, they will reach 1,500 parents, caregivers and families.

A student completes a homework assignment for her computer class at the Dickinson Adult Learning Center in April of 2021.
A student completes a homework assignment for her computer class at the Dickinson Adult Learning Center in April of 2021.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

Looking toward the 2022-2023 school year, Lewton reported that during the Kindergarten Kickoff on April 26, DPS now has 215 students registered to enroll — which is up from 150 kindergartners one month ago.

Lewton noted that on June 1 and June 2, most of DPS will undergo School Improvement Camp. Also in June, 187 staff members — from paraprofessionals to teachers — have signed up for trauma training.

The school board will meet for its annual meeting at 5 p.m. Monday, July 11, at the Professional Learning Lab.

Related Topics: DICKINSONDICKINSON PUBLIC SCHOOLSEDUCATION
Jackie Jahfetson is a graduate of Northern Michigan University whose journalism path began in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a freelancer for The Daily Mining Gazette. Her previous roles include editor-in-chief at The North Wind and reporter at The Mining Journal in Marquette, Mich. Raised on a dairy farm, she immediately knew Dickinson would be her first destination west as she focuses on gaining aptitude for ranch life, crop farming and everything agriculture. She covers hard news stories centered on government, fires, crime and education. When not fulfilling deadlines and attending city commission meetings, she is a budding musician and singer.
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