- Associated Press - Thursday, March 3, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Minot Daily News, Minot, March 3, 2016

Minot votes for change

Minot voters spoke on Tuesday and collectively, by a landslide, opted for change.

Joining voters all over the nation this year, Minot residents spoke loudly to shake up the status quo of government and to seek the opportunity for something better. In overwhelmingly supporting two small measures on Tuesday’s ballot, voters have paved the way for a change in the structure and makeup of the Minot City Council.

The voters’ message could not be louder or more clear and it should serve as notice to elected officials in Minot and in the region. Clearly, there is a sense of disappointment in and disdain for the status quo, and an intense desire for change. Consider that more than 3,500 people came out to vote on these small items, compared to just under 4,800 who came out to a June 2011 special election that included a much more contentious taxing item. A loud voice for reform has called out and it would be foolish to ignore the fact that clearly there is a disconnect between the elected and electors.

Of course, calling out for change is easy. Being part of change requires much more. Those who voted for change this week are now challenged to be a part of that change. Serving in elected office is more or less volunteer work in a community of this size and proponents of reform are called upon to submit their names for consideration as potential leaders in the next generation of leaders.

Change evolution, really is coming to Minot and the sooner everyone in the community comes to grips with that, the easier and less contentious the process will be.

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The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, March 3, 2016

Language essential to students

Starting over in a new country isn’t easy. There are cultural differences and language barriers that must be overcome. For children, who are adaptable, the social challenges can be great.

Going to school while you are learning a new language can be daunting, that’s why a program for elementary students in the Bismarck Public Schools is so important.

The English Language Learner Welcome Center gives students the opportunity to learn English and start school in a controlled setting instead of jumping into a classroom where they would have difficulty understanding teachers and communicating with classmates. The program helps prevent the students from falling behind and makes it easier for them to make friends when they enter a classroom.

The program is relatively new, with the welcome center opening in the fall of 2015. The students spend up to three trimesters at the welcome center, located at Hughes Educational Center, before moving to their neighborhood schools. Some students move earlier if they do well on an assessment.

Before the welcome center was established, students were enrolled straight into neighborhood schools even if they knew little English. English Language Learner instructors visited schools and worked with the students for a limited amount of time. So some students spent most of their days in sort of a fog, attending classes where they didn’t understand their teachers and classmates.

When the students are done at the welcome center they aren’t tossed into their new school. Every student attends a transition meeting at their school with their parents to meet the teachers and administrators. They also get a tour and a classroom buddy to take them under their wing. The buddy aspect of the program is especially nice - a chance for a North Dakota child to share and learn with someone from another country. The importance of a buddy can’t be downplayed.

Some might think the school district is going through a lot of trouble for a few students. That’s not the case. There are 155 English Language Learner students at various levels of proficiency who speak 27 different languages in the school district. It makes sense when dealing with so many languages to have one starting point to help the kids. The district is considering a similar program for middle school students, but it doesn’t appear feasible at the moment to include high school students.

With students from so many different countries coming into the district it’s important to help them assimilate into our society. If the students are happy and succeeding, it makes life easier for their parents who no doubt are going through adjustments.

Anyone who read reporter Amy R. Sisk’s Saturday story about the program couldn’t miss the excitement of the young graduates getting ready to enter their schools. The photo of the beaming kids also told the story.

The school district should be commended for their efforts.

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The Daily News, Wahpeton, Feb. 29, 2016

County roads better than their reputation

While riding along the roads leading into, out of and around Richland County, pay attention to which branch of government maintains them. You’ll often be able to tell by street signs and road markers.

In the loosest sense, all roads are created equal. In the practical sense, it is up to a road’s caretakers to keep them up to a safe and acceptable standard.

Earlier this month, Richland County Commissioners Tim Campbell and Dan Thompson acknowledged the difficulties of maintaining county roads to the satisfaction of their constituents. The county only receives so much money by the state of North Dakota as it is, which leads to solutions such as using gravel instead of asphalt for certain stretches of roads.

Using gravel isn’t always popular, and citizens have every right to complain about it. But it is a solution, and it illustrates the level of care and concern Richland County is giving a situation it only has so much control over.

Just compare the two miles of gravel road near Fairmount, before the South Dakota border, to the two miles paved past the border and ask yourself which provides a more satisfying ride.

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