Members face many issues on School Board

Voters will select two of three candidates for the rural seats on the Jamestown Public School Board at the primary election Tuesday. The candidates are incumbents Greg Allen and Mindi Grieve and challenger Shelly Jystad.

Voters will select two of three candidates for the rural seats on the Jamestown Public School Board at the primary election Tuesday. The candidates are incumbents Greg Allen and Mindi Grieve and challenger Shelly Jystad.

City candidates Heidi Larson, Roy Musland and Tanya Ostlie are running unopposed.

The School Board has discussed several controversial issues recently including the Gifted and Talented Program, Jamestown North and the district's facility rental policy.

The board recently agreed to fund the Gifted and Talented Program, which would require two full-time employees cost the district about $160,000. About 5 percent of students would qualify for the program, which would take them out of their classrooms for part of the day for enrichment instruction.

Some parents had voiced support of the program, saying Jamestown funds programs for students struggling in school, but the district doesn't do enough for students who excel. Critics of the program, like former Jamestown Education Association President Ken Aune, for example, had said the district should instead spend its money on counselors, teacher aids in classrooms and improving the drop-out rate.


Jystad said she favors any program intended to help students, but the funding should be spent on teacher aides or other programs that help all students, rather than a few. The dollars should be allocated to benefit the greatest number of students, she said.

"I have a hard time spending large amounts of money for small amounts of students," she said.

Allen said he too was in support of the program, but not if it took resources away from the students struggling in school. Spending money on lower-achieving students in effect, actually assists the higher-achieving students as well, he said, because when all students are at a higher level, the teacher can focus on more challenging material for the entire class. Spending money on the students struggling in school doesn't hold the higher-achieving students back, Allen said.

Grieve said she supported the program because gifted and talented students need it and the district could afford it.

"It's worth the money because we have the money right now," she said.

Another issue the board discussed recently is Jamestown North, an alternative program for students who drop out of Jamestown High School. Students attending North can finish their classes there and still graduate with a JHS diploma. At North, class sizes are smaller and students have said they can focus on their studies better.

District administration recently proposed cutting staff at North to one teacher instead of three part-time teachers. Enrollment at North has decreased recently, administrators said, and the district could place the other teachers in positions already open in the district, rather than eliminate the position later and have no job for those teachers. The School Board voted down the recommendation and chose to continue staffing Jamestown North as is.

Grieve said she supported the board's decision to retain current staffing at Jamestown North because reducing staff only means the school is more likely to close. Jamestown North is an asset to Jamestown Public Schools, she said. The school should do more to raise awareness of Jamestown North and what it offers so more struggling students can take advantage of it. Jamestown North is an opportunity for the district to curb its drop-out rate, she said.


"The problem is there's too few students at north, its not that there's too many teachers," Grieve said.

Jystad agreed.

Students who drop out end up costing communities money. She not only agreed with the School Board's decision to retain its current staff, but she also said services at Jamestown North could be expanded rather than reduced.

"I think we can expand our services there to reach more and more kids," she said.

Allen said he did not vote in favor of the decision to keep the current staff.

New administrators at North beginning next year will already better the school, he said.

Plus, schools are implementing alternative opportunities -- like the block program -- for students to improve in their studies without needing to drop out and enroll at Jamestown North.

The block program at Jamestown High School allows struggling students to take one class during two periods, meaning they can spend more time focusing on one subject instead of two. The students take core classes like math and science one semester and English and social studies the next. Only freshmen could participate in the 2009-2010 school year. The School Board approved extending the program to JHS freshmen and sophomores for the 2010-2011 school year.


"Because of everything else that we are doing, we may not have the students there to support that (many teachers)." Allen said.

One of the district's most controversial issues this year was discussion regarding its facility rental policy. Some members of the public expressed concern after a religious-affiliated group rented the Jamestown High School during school hours. They said the district shouldn't allow religious groups to rent the facility while children were in school because religious instruction in a public school setting is inappropriate.

Other members of the public disagreed, saying the district required permission slips for students to attend. The district played no role in organizing or promoting the event, those in favor of retaining the policy said. And, they said, the Constitution ensures freedom of religion for everyone.

The board considered changing the policy. It talked of limiting facility rentals to after-school hours or not allowing religious or political groups to rent the facility at all. It tabled the decision and later decided to keep its policy as is.

Allen said he agreed with the board's decision to keep the policy.

"As long as it doesn't interfere with the educational process I think it should be available to anyone who wants to rent it," he said.

Grieve said she too agreed with the board's decision to keep the facility rental policy. The current policy is equitable to all groups, she said. As long as they follow the district's requirements of not interrupting instruction or promoting illegal activity, the district should allow the group to rent the facility.

"It has to be fair across the boars and that what our policy is," Grieve said.


Jystad agreed with Allen. She also said the community voted to pay for the facility, so the district should allow groups to use it to its fullest extent.

"To do otherwise is a mismanagement of our resources," she said.

She also said the district could revise the policy if issues continue to arise.

Voting at the Jamestown Civic Center is set for Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sun reporter Katie Ryan can be reached at 701-952-8454

or by e-mail at

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