Superintendent News

“Engage!”  This was the signature “phrase” of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise from the Star Trek Next Generation television series.  Engage meant that the Enterprise would once again embark on a grand adventure.  All hands on deck.  If you happened to hold the post as the chief engineering officer, “engage” also meant that you better be prepared to perform some miracle to keep the ship operational due to a never ending siege of conflicts and catastrophes.  From the original series, this role was best personified by the unforgettable Scotty.  

Engage stands as a pretty good word with which to launch 2023.  It implies commitment.  It demands being present and involved.  It means accepting responsibility for the process of life’s journey and its outcome.  

While “engage” signified the launch, a launch by itself isn’t very effective without a navigation system.  Understanding the importance of this, the Enterprise had a designated navigation officer.  We need navigation for our lives as well.  The turning of a new year can be the perfect excuse to reflect on the most important priorities in one’s life.  That should provide the compass on how we spend our time and where we devote the majority of our energies.  

Which brings me to education.  For the children of this community, a great education can serve as the navigation system to take them anywhere they want to go in life.  When children are engaged and invested in their education, the results are amazing.  They discover their talents and interests.  They develop their beliefs.  They craft their dreams.  They expand the possibilities on where life’s voyage can take them.   

Unlike the Enterprise, we don’t yet have the benefit of a transporter.  We move along a step at a time.  One of the most important factors to student success is daily school attendance. The impact of poor school attendance has been studied for decades.  It should come as no surprise that there is a high correlation between poor attendance and failing grades and a reduction in student achievement.  From the National Center for Education Statistics, “The primary rationale for high-quality attendance data is the relationship between student attendance and student achievement.”  Furthermore, attendance habits begin early, “These differences in absentee rates were observed as early as kindergarten, and students who eventually dropped out of high school missed significantly more days of school in first grade than their peers who graduated from high school.  In eighth grade, this pattern was even more apparent and, by ninth grade, attendance was shown to be a key indicator significantly correlated with high school graduation.

When a student is absent, there is really no way to replicate what was missed.  The child wasn’t there for the teacher’s direct instruction and the child wasn’t part of the classroom discussions and activities that took place.  With many subjects, the previous day’s lesson is necessary to understand today’s lesson.  Over time, poor attendance can lead to learning gaps in even the most capable students. Socially, the student also missed out on important peer-to-peer interaction.   

If a student is struggling with poor attendance, we are very willing to work with the child and family to get things back on a positive path.  Our school and community are blessed with many resources that can provide needed support for children and families.  Open, honest conversations about challenges and struggles are essential in creating an effective plan.

With engagement and the skills to navigate a path to life’s goals and dreams, our students are poised for a fantastic voyage.  On behalf of the Fergus Falls Public School District - Happy New Year!