Richland 44 task force releases recommendations

Outgoing school board member Heidi Foley, above left, addressed the Richland 44 community, calling for truth rather than relying on rumors. With Foley is school board member Sarah Myers, who represents Colfax, N.D.

“We are trying to create up-standers, not by-standers,” Joshua Mjoness said at a Tuesday, July 17 meeting of the Richland 44 School Board.

Mjoness served as chairman of the 360 Review Task Force, which combined students, parents, educators and officials to analyze district policy, protocol and student supports. Over 80 guests attended the meeting, held at Richland 44 High School.

Formed in response to months of reported student misconduct and communications breakdown, the task force offered several recommendations for improvement, trust-building and efficiency.

“The district should attach summaries of any policy which pertains to student conduct and behavior that includes clear language to make the policy easy to understand by students of all ages, parents and patrons,” Mjoness continued.

Discussions about the planned re-entry of students who have been out of school for several months began on Monday, July 9. That day, former Fargo police officer and school resource officer Chris Potter began serving as guidance counselor.

“We are in the business of relationship building in education,” Potter said. “Without that, nothing else that we do matters.”

Richland 44 is expected to revise its policies on sexual violence, cyberbullying and cellphone use in school. Building safety was addressed, with a recommendation to have a sign in, sign out procedure for visitors, including members of the public using the gymnasium.

Another task force suggestion called for creating better empathy among district participants. Joel Freisz, Lutheran Social Services, gave a short description of the “Restorative Practices” model.

“It is not a program that you just pick up and set to one classroom or that you just train one school person. It is a philosophy for the way that a school can operate in everything they do,” Freisz said.

Mjoness expressed optimism about applying restorative practices to Richland 44. Training will begin in August with possible continuation throughout the 2018-19 school year.

“We believe that this will be a crucial part of empowering our students to help not only themselves but others as well,” Mjoness said.

Interim Superintendent Dean Koppelman took office on Sunday, July 1, following two months as a substitute superintendent. Koppelman shared goals for the year ahead, including creating a positive relationship with local media.

On Tuesday, Aug. 2, voters will elect three of eight candidates in a recall election. Petitioners for a recall were motivated by issues included frustration over handling misconduct allegations, Daily News Media previously reported.

Polls for the recall election will be open from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 2. Poling locations are:

• Richland 44 High School, 101 Main St. in Colfax, North Dakota

• Abercrombie Community Center, 101 Main Ave. in Colfax

• Christine Community Center, 201 Maine St. in Christine, North Dakota

In one race, for portions of Eagle Township and Walcott Township, North Dakota, Mjoness faces challengers Derek Beito and Scott Hendrickson. They are running for the last year of an unexpired term.

In another race, for Abercrombie, North Dakota, incumbent Lisa Amundson faces challenger Amy Lehman. They are running for the last year of an unexpired term.

The final race, for Colfax, has incumbent Sarah Myers facing challengers Jody Lingen and Paul Lucas. They’re running for the last two years of an unexpired term.

During the July meeting, Nathan Berseth was unanimously elected president of the school board. Berseth represents the south portion of Eagle Township, North Dakota. He succeeded Amundson as president and his term on the board expires in 2020.

Newly elected board member Craig Olson was unanimously elected school board vice president. Olson represents Nansen Township, North Dakota. On Tuesday, June 12, he defeated incumbent Heidi Foley.

Challenger Nicole Rostad Holdman defeated fellow newcomer David Thompson to represent Colfax Township, North Dakota. Newcomer Todd Johnson ran unopposed to represent Abercrombie Township and a portion of Ibsen Township, North Dakota.

Board members Bryan Loff and Dan Haverland did not seek re-election. Haverland previously served as board vice president. The three outgoing members received warm farewells from the current board.

“Dan has been a school board member for 10 years,” said Amundson before giving him a recognition plaque. “He’s a long-timer. Dan, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I so much appreciate having worked with you for the last five years, having you as a resource (of) knowledge to help me navigate being board president. It was invaluable.”

Foley, addressed the Richland 44 community, calling for finding truth rather than relying on rumors. She also encouraged standing behind the administration and school board.

“They need your strength, they don’t need your anger,” Foley continued.

The meeting also included a number of authorizations for the 2018-19 school year, including Daily News Media being named the district’s official newspaper.

Richland 44’s next board meeting will be held Wednesday, Aug. 8. School begins for the 2018-19 year on Wednesday, Aug. 22.

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