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Fergus Falls Public Schools

SUPERINTENDENT’S COLUMN
By Superintendent Jerry Ness
• April 14, 2010 •

Impressive course offerings


In 2006, during my first year as District 544
superintendent, Roger and Kay Worner Education Consultants completed an organization analysis study of
the district and stressed the robust curriculum offered to our students. The following is a partial list of
opportunities for our secondary school (6-12) students, in addition to our strong core curriculum.
Our Independent Study Art classes allow students to focus on their interests and delve into areas
they have not yet explored. Personal Computer Maintenance and Repair is a new course that will be offered
in our Business Education Department.
The Cultural Foods course, within the department of Family and Consumer Science, is supported
through our diversity grant. And for the first time next year, the Family and Consumer Science and Industrial
Technology departments will be offering courses to our 6th grade students. We are also offering a new
course, Introduction to Engineering and Design as part of Project Lead the Way. A course called Principals
of Engineering is currently being team-taught for 9th grade Honors Science students. This course is part of
the sequence to the Introduction to Engineering and Design starting next year.
Our vocational wing is a busy place. Our complete Auto Technician program involves three years of
coursework and auto internships and is one of only four similar programs in the state. We have two courses
in beginning and advanced Digital Photography, an Advanced Small Engines course and numerous metals
and woods classes.
Seven different Advanced Placement courses are offered, with students able to test for college credit
at the end of the classes. We also have College Physics, College Algebra and College Pre-Calculus. Four
different literature classes are being offered, along with two semesters of College Writing.
Many schools are no longer able to offer an orchestra program, but we have tremendous — and
award-winning — programs in orchestra, band and choir. Our physical education department has Social
Dance and Lifetime Recreation classes, which give students a chance to explore areas of life-long interest.
Students are able to take many on-line courses through our IQ Academy, a comprehensive middle
and high school. French I-II and Spanish I-III are being offered, along with our initial offering of Mandarin
Chinese and Cultural Exploration — with more than 80 students enrolled! The instructor for the Mandarin
Chinese course is funded through our Confucius Center grant.
We are also looking to offer middle school social studies using a literature-base curriculum that will
incorporate additional reading instruction and the use of Study Island as another tool to improve the reading
and math skills of our middle school students.
We use Carnegie Math software to improve math skills with several of our high school students.
There are at least seven new courses or initiatives being offered next year alone. Our special
education specifically designed instruction courses are being reviewed, with numerous changes proposed.
Principal Dean Monke said it is amazing how hard our staff is working to develop new initiatives and
programs to help our students in all kinds of creative ways. Counselor Dave Thorpe finds it admirable that
we can still offer the electives we do offer in spite of tough economic times. Our teachers have worked hard
to maintain relevance and to create many articulated courses so students have the opportunity to earn
college credits in high school.

6th Grade Trip


Do you remember studying Minnesota History as a 6th grader and traveling to the Twin Cities to see
some of what you studied? Our 6th graders will be going to the Cities to tour the Science Museum, watch
“Arabia” at the Omni Theater, tour the Minnesota Historical Society and (of course) tour the State Capitol.
Fundraising by the students pays for the buses and some of the admission fees. Thanks to the 6th grade
teachers for organizing the field trip and this hands-on learning experience for our students.