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District 1 partnering with Boston College to study personalized learning

In his first year, Jeffrey Thake, superintendent for Williston Public School District No. 1, focused on small pilot projects to show how personalized learning could work.

This year, the district is rolling out more of those projects and putting some of the more successful ones into more classrooms. That raises some new questions.

First, what’s the best way to measure student progress with personalized learning? Second, what do teachers need to know to lead a different kind of classroom?

District 1 is going to soon have a new ally in looking for the answers to those questions — Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development.

Joanna Baltes, board president, said the college heard about the district’s pilot programs and was interested in cooperating.

At a special meeting Wednesday evening, the board voted unanimously to OK a memorandum of understanding between the district and the college.

The goal is twofold. The first question is how to prepare teachers to deliver 21st-century, personalized education.

“Together, we will explore how to best train and support teaching professionals as they transition to delivering student-centered learning,” Baltes wrote in a statement.

That fits well with the role the Lynch School plays — preparing teachers.

The second goal is about preparing students. The college and the district will collaborate on finding ways to gather data about student achievement to help evaluate how well personalized education is working.

“There’s not very much research showing how effective personalized learning can be,” Baltes said.

Faculty and staff from the college plan to visit the district in October.

Thake said the two schools are going to meet both in person and virtually. He hopes the college will be able to provide detailed, specific feedback to help improve student learning.

He also helps that this will be the first of many partnerships with colleges and universities. And the work that’s planned could make more districts take notice.

Even though the U.S. Department of Education defined personalized learning in 2010, school districts have been slow to adopt the idea.

“The industrialization and standardization of public education have made it very difficult to transform, or deviate from ‘the way things have always been,’” Thake said.

But, he said, the difference it can make is worth the work.

“Personalized learning is the path to meaningful change, autonomy, and purpose,” he said. The schools who have successfully implemented personalized learning have truly changed the conversation about public education. Williston Public School District No. 1 will be that district in North Dakota.”

CalFrac employees are paying it forward, one lawn at a time

Jim Hendrickson is leading the charge on CalFrac’s giving-back activity this year. It involves mowing the lawns for five cancer patients in the community.

The idea was suggested by someone with ties to Bras for a Cause, which raises funds to help cancer patients.

“It was an idea that was brought up that maybe we could help out just a time or two,” Hendrickson said.

But after the first round, Hendrickson was hooked on this idea. Instead of just a one and done program, Jim and other volunteers decided to keep it going all summer.

‘Pretty neat people’

“This completely changes your perspective, and makes you think over what you have,” Hendrickson said. “When you take the opportunity you have to help someone else out … These are just pretty neat people. And they show a lot of appreciation for what we are doing.”

Wednesday is the day Jim and his fellow CalFrac employees are out and about in Williston with mowers and weed trimmers in hand, five at once, whacking the grass and any weeds down to a prettier size.

It doesn’t take the CalFrac crew long to finish an average-sized lawn, with four or five volunteers working at once. Twenty minutes later, even on a large-sized lawn, this week’s crew had already almost finished its work on one lawn when the Williston Herald arrived to take a picture of their efforts.

“It really goes fast,” Johnny Laiho agreed.

Laiho came to Williston a few months after graduating from college for a job during the boom. When activity picked up again, he returned for more. But his whole family followed this time, including his father, who works for a different energy company.

He said he likes the Williston community with all the amenities that have recently been added, and he likes the lawn-mowing project CalFrac began this year.

“It’s awesome,” agreed Cambo Kelly, one of his coworkers, who was taking a turn with the CalFrac volunteers for the first time.

New people are volunteering to help with the lawn mowing task all the time, Hendrickson said.

“It’s just been so amazing to see how people have stepped up,” he said. “And I think that is important for when people go through this. If they get support and it is positive around them, you win the battle.”

Hendrickson knows about the importance of positive support personally, because one of his grandchildren in Utah was diagnosed with leukemia a few years ago.

Several treatments

The 7 year old had been facing 14 more treatments, but doctors recently cut that down to three more instead.

“It was a three-year and four- month process of treating him,” Hendrickson said. “He never let it get him down. We are going to beat ours, and I believe it is because of him, how strong and tough he is, and the support around him.”

Wednesdays have given Jim a new way to pay it forward for all the support his family in Utah has received. While the rest of the world thinks of Wednesday as “hump day,” Jim thinks of it differently.

“People say this is Jim’s favorite day, and it is,” he said. “I just get so much out of it.”

Robert Brewer • Williston Herald  

Zach Carson, pictured here, will be joining forces with former WHS teammate Jake Engen as members of the Williston State College Tetons in the spring of 2020.

$250K bond for man accused of having 2 pounds of meth

Police say a man arrested Tuesday on drug charges helped to move more than 16 pounds of methamphetamine into the area in about a year.

Jesus Sanchez, 40, was charged Thursday, Aug. 22, with a class A felony count of criminal conspiracy. He was ordered held on $250,000 bond.

An informant told police that a package containing about two pounds of meth had arrived at the person’s home and that it was for Sanchez, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in Northwest District Court. A search warrant for the package turned up 1,021 grams of meth — about two pounds, four ounces.

The informant told officers that over the last 12 months or so, 16 pounds of meth had been shipped to the home, always earmarked for Sanchez, court records indicate. Police recorded a conversation where the pair agreed to meet and when Sanchez got in the informant’s car, he began asking about the package.

In a news release put on Wednesday announcing the seizure, police said it came after a long-term investigation, but did not say how long. On Sanchez’s arrest has been announced, but more arrested in the near future are possible, officers said.

Sanchez is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing on Sept. 18.

FCC OKs $591 million for rural broadband in North Dakota

The FCC has authorized more than $590 million to support rural broadband statewide, including $15,831,071 to Nemont Telephone Cooperative for Divide, McKenzie and Williams counties.

The money will be used over the next decade for maintaining, improving, and expanding affordable broadband for 41,578 rural homes and businesses.

The authorization in North Dakota was part of a nationwide authorization of over $4.9 billion in support over the next decade for 455,334 homes and businesses served by 171 carriers in 39 states and American Samoa, including 44,243 locations on Tribal lands.

The support is targeted to smaller rural carriers, traditionally known as “rate-of-return” carriers. These carriers agreed this year to accept subsidies based on the FCC’s Alternative Connect America Cost Model, or A-CAM, which provides predictability, rewards efficiency, and provides more value for each taxpayer dollar. The homes and businesses are in sparsely populated rural areas where the per-location price of deployment and ongoing costs of providing broadband service are high, requiring support from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund to facilitate network improvements and keep rates reasonably comparable to those in urban areas.

In Divide County, the FCC allocated $5,105,463 to expand access to 277 locations. In McKenzie, there are 45 locations and Nemont will get $1,065,351.