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2017 North Dakota Teacher of the Year and Finalists Inside: NDU Advocacy Conference & Legislative Preview



























Postmaster, send address changes to: North Dakota United 301 N 4th Street Bismarck, ND 58501

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For Nanci Dauwen, an algebra teacher at Sheyenne High School in West Fargo, this profession is all she’s ever wanted to do. “For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher,” Dauwen said. “As children, my sister and I would play school for hours, and often include our neighborhood friends. … The best part for me would be when I would get to be teacher.”








Kelly Hagen Director of Communications Tom Gerhardt Director of Public Affairs

Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s final budget includes proposals that would impact members of North Dakota United, including a plan to continue to fully fund health insurance premiums for state employees, a marginal raise for state employees in the upcoming biennium and steep cuts to higher education.


United Voices is the official publication of North Dakota United, 301 N 4th Street, Bismarck, ND 58501. Contact Us 701.223.0450

If you like transition, stepping into the unknown or performing on the trapeze without a net, you are living in exactly the right time.

The North Dakota Legislature and higher education system don’t always see eye to eye. Certain legislators think they know better how to run the system than the State Board of Higher Education or even the university administrators and presidents. It’s a battle every session to get the voices of faculty and staff from our state’s 11 public universities heard by legislators.

When you first started your career in education or public service, why did you join North Dakota United?

Maybe you’ve heard the following said in your school, or seen a meme with this message on social media: “It’s cute how the principal thinks they’re in charge, when everyone knows the school secretary runs everything.”

The 2017 North Dakota United Advocacy Conference includes lots of great content, tailored to appeal to all members – K-12 teachers, education support professionals (ESPs), higher education faculty and staff, public employees, students and retirees.

ND United Voices

President’s Post


NDU members will make their voices heard If you like transition, stepping into the unknown or performing on the trapeze without a net, you are living in exactly the right time. As I write this column on a Delta flight winging its way toward Washington, D.C., for a meeting with the American Federation of Teachers, I am considering the very real changes we are about to see.

By Nick Archuleta NDU President

We are happy to do this difficult work, but we cannot do it alone. If you haven’t done so already, get over to and sign up to be a Member Activist!”

Nationally, Donald J. Trump is preparing to become the 45th President of the United States, and has chosen a Michigan billionaire, Betsy DeVos, to serve as Secretary of Education. Ms. DeVos, who has scant practical experience in public education, has a disturbing record of funding organizations that advocate for using public monies to fund private and for­—profit charter schools, practices that are specifically at odds with the NDU legislative agenda. At the state level, the 65th Legislative Assembly will kick off in an environment unlike any we have seen in the past 15 years. The 2016 wave election that swept Donald Trump into the Oval Office has impacted our state as well. The Republican Party went from having a super majority to enjoying a super-duper majority in both chambers of our Legislature. In addition, the people of North Dakota have elected Doug Burgum to serve as Governor of North Dakota. Gov. Burgum has promised North Dakotans a new vision for our state and a new way of conducting the affairs of North Dakota. At North Dakota United, we wish the Governor and our Legislature great success in ensuring that our citizens can continue to enjoy great public schools, great public service and an outstanding university system known nationally for its phenomenal research, as well as it high-quality teaching and learning. Unfortunately, our new Governor and our Legislature will have a raft of challenges ahead of them as a result of the extremely tough economic situation we find ourselves in today and likely for the duration of the upcoming biennium. Our state’s economy is tied to commodities, energy and agriculture, to the extent that when those markets turn downward, so do our revenues. This session is likely to be an exercise in belt-tightening. Fortunately, ND United was instrumental in passing Measure Two, which will allow the Legislature to maintain education funding without the Governor having to call for an allotment. Our hope is that it will free up some funds that will allow the Legislature to invest in the vital public services that our members provide every single day to the citizens of North Dakota. We will, of course, be at the Capitol each of the 80 days this session, representing and advocating for our members’ interests. In fact, we began reaching out to legislators long before the session began and will continue to engage them collectively and individually to hammer home our message. We are happy to do this difficult work, but we cannot do it alone. If you haven’t done so already, get over to and sign up to be a Member Activist! It’s fast, it’s fun and it is a terrific way for you to have your voice heard on the important matters that the Legislature will consider. Be well, ND United members, and be very proud of the work you do and the lives you impact! On a personal note, thank you for your membership in ND United, the state’s largest association of professionals!

Stay in touch!


If these provisions of the budget stand, fewer state employees will be left to do more work, with less help and for less pay.” – NDU President Nick Archuleta

SLIM BUDGET Governor’s proposal signals cuts to higher education, job lossses By Tom Gerhardt,

Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s final budget includes proposals that would impact members of North Dakota United, including a plan to continue to fully fund health insurance premiums for state employees, a marginal raise for state employees in the upcoming biennium and steep cuts to higher education. The governor said, although his budget is balanced and sustainable, the latest revenue forecast for the 2015-17 biennium is $1.4 billion less than the legislative forecast. Dalrymple says that forced him to make some difficult decisions. Higher education is the target of the largest proposed cuts. The governor recommends 15 percent cuts 4

across the board and also calls for reducing the number of full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) by 315. Dalrymple said 5 percent of the cuts could be made up with tuition increases not to exceed 2.5 percent per year. Most other state agencies have been tasked with making 10 percent cuts, and there will be 268 fewer FTEs. Most of the cuts to FTEs would be made by not filling open positions, although some current employees will likely be cut. State employees would also forgo a pay increase in the first year of the biennium but be eligible for a 1 percent increase in the second year. However, the ND United Voices

Legislators applaud former Governor Dalrymple following his budget address at the State Capitol.

Governor says his major commitment is to continue to fully fund employees’ health insurance premiums. Dalrymple says funding the current health plan comes at a cost of an additional $21.8 million. NDU President Nick Archuleta said, “In addition, this budget allows for no raise in salaries the first year of the biennium and a meager 1 percent increase for the second year. If these provisions of the budget stand, fewer state employees will be left to do more work, with less help and for less pay. The good news in this budget for public employees is that health insurance will continue to be fully funded, though there will be ‘some adjustments to the plan.’” K-12 education would remain fully funded under the Governor’s proposal. Dalrymple twice pointed to Measure Two’s passing as an important reason that K-12 should remain fully funded. Measure Two allows access to millions of dollars from the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund to cover shortfalls. North Dakota United advocated for Measure Two to help ensure K-12 education

Former Governor Jack Dalrymple greets his wife Betsy and House Majority Leader Al Carlson following his budget address.

remained fully funded. “As I expected, our strategic efforts to pass Measure Two means that K-12 funding in North Dakota will remain constant,” President Archuleta said. “There will, no doubt, be very serious discussions at the bargaining table this spring, but NDU has made sure that funding for the next biennium will be steady.” It’s unclear if Governor-Elect Doug Burgum will offer changes to Dalrymple’s proposal or offer his own budget. Archuleta added, “We at North Dakota United realize that this is simply the first offering in wthesehat promises to be a lively debate on the 2017-19 state budget. I am sure that Governor-Elect Doug Burgum has some budget priorities that he will want to see come to fruition and, of course, the Legislature will weigh in on what it thinks is in the state’s best interest.”


Public Service Perspectives

COMPENSATION PANEL MAKES RECOMMENDATION State employees must be paid fairly The State Employee Compensation Commission (SECC), comprised of four legislators (three Republicans and one Democrat), four state employees and chaired by Pam Sharp, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), held its second meeting of the biennium to make its recommendation regarding state employee compensation and fringe benefits. The committee is prohibited from considering conditions of employment other than fringe benefits. The committee is charged with making a recommendation regarding compensation, which the governor shall consider in the preparation of the budget to be submitted to the Legislature. Prior to considering a recommendation, Sparb Collins, executive director of the North Dakota Public Employee Retirement System (NDPERS), provided an update on the status of the retirement fund and the renewal of the NDPERS healthcare coverage currently being provided by Sanford Health Plan. In a survey of more than 7,000 NDPERS members, there was a sound level of satisfaction, and the performance-standard review completed by Deloitte Consulting showed Sanford had met the performance standards set by the NDPERS board. Collins provided some background on projected increases to the health premium, potential plan design changes that would reduce costs and the potential impact of giving up the grandfather status of the plan under the Affordable Care Act. Collins also pointed out that current state statute does not allow employees to pay a portion of the health premium.

By Gary Feist Vice President of Public Employees

North Dakota United, through the united voice of all its members, will advocate for the recommendation of a fully funded family health premium and a salary increase of 2 percent for each year of the biennium.”

In a unanimous vote, the commission recommend that the state continue to fund 100 percent of the premium for the 2017-19 budget. Several days after the SECC meeting, the NDPERS Board of Directors renewed the Sanford Health Plan with an increase of 16.7 percent, which translates into a total increase of $55.6 million for the biennium, of which $30.6 million is general funds. Lynn Hart from Human Resources Management Services (HRMS) provided some background regarding the compensation recommendations and the legislative funding appropriated in the prior session, and the impacts the increases had on the movement of employees through their paygrades. In considering a recommendation, the committee was reminded of the state’s compensation philosophy, which is included in NDCC 5444.3-01.2, which includes six tenets that the state should meet in order to compensate its employees fairly. I believe the Legislature has followed the compensation philosophy over the past few legislative sessions, which has allowed the state to become more competitive in the job market. The state must continue to follow its philosophy if it is going to be able to retain current employees and attract qualified employees to fill open positions. Hart pointed out that the employee turnover for 2015 was 12.5 percent, with eight agencies having a turnover of more than 15 percent. After a long discussion and consideration of the state’s economic forecast and the information provided to the committee, a motion was made recommending a 1 percent salary increase for each year to the biennium. The motion failed on a 4-5 vote, with the employees and Rep. Mary Schneider voting no. Rep. Schneider then made a motion to recommend a salary increase of 2 percent for each year, with the possibility of an additional 1 percent in the second year if the state’s revenue collections improved. The motion passed 5-4. The Governor will now consider the recommendation in drafting his budget for the 2017-19 biennium. North Dakota United, through the united voice of all its members, will advocate for the recommendation of a fully funded family health premium and a salary increase of 2 percent for each year of the biennium. Considering the state’s current revenue outlook, NDU will need each of us to contact our legislators repeatedly through the session to make sure a compensation and benefits package is passed that will fairly compensate employees for the quality work that they do each and every day for the citizens of North Dakota. It’s up to us, the members of NDU, to fight for the resources necessary to enable us to provide quality services to the people we serve.


ND United Voices

Education Perspectives

PUBLIC EDUCATION NEEDS YOUR VOICE More important than ever to speak out for all students Now what? We have had time to digest the elections results. The numb feeling of disbelief has moved us to ask, “What do we do now?” “How do we continue to move education toward effective goals?” “What is my role in the policymaking process of our newly elected leaders?” I place my trust in the wisdom of our forefathers. They created a system of checks and balances. A system of law governs how we live. Our presidency is not a dictatorship, so we as citizens have the opportunity to be involved in the policymaking process. Search your values and prioritize what you truly believe. Are charter and private schools the answer for America? America needs to affirm the values of respect, compassion for others, and tolerance for diversified opinions and cultures. Can this be met with a for-profit educational system? Consider making positive change right where you live. Positive change begins with our families, neighborhoods, cities, states and then on to our country. Regain the positive outlook for our nation by starting at the roots. We can’t walk away from our churches, schools and city foundations because of the circumstances of the 2016 election. We need to dust off and regroup. Our plan for making a positive change comes baby steps at a time. Nothing moves forward if we walk away from it. Small things grow.

By Karen Christensen Vice President of Education

Your help is needed. Your voice may be small, but together we are heard.”

Now is the time to find people that share your values and opinions. Build a support team that can get involved in the policymaking process. Call friends and write letters to policymakers. Tell them that you are expecting their representative vote to include what is best for America’s youngest citizens. Share your concerns and what scares you about the proposed changes. I believe there are many reasons why I sent my senator a letter of concern. Charter and private schools do not have to accept all children. I believe all children have a right to quality education. Parents lose the ability to be actively involved in the decision-making process of the local district as there is no longer a school board elected by the community but a group of executive directors making decisions for profit, not student progress. I truly believe every child in America has the right to quality education. Supporting public education and funding the system to allow progress makes sense for ALL our students. North Dakota United works tirelessly to raise public education up as a priority in North Dakota. We will continue to do so in whatever way we can. Your help is needed. Your voice may be small, but together we are heard. Put letter writing on your next agenda. Compose a letter as a team. Express your concerns. We can’t let things happen to us. We need to work together to make things happen. Michelle Obama has made it very clear, “When they go low, we go high.”


2017 North Dakota Teacher of the Year


ND United Voices

LIFELONG DREAM West Fargo educator named 2017 Teacher of the Year 2017 North Dakota Teacher of the Year award.

By Kelly Hagen,

For Nanci Dauwen, an algebra teacher at Sheyenne High School in West Fargo, this profession is all she’s ever wanted to do. “For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher,” Dauwen said. “As children, my sister and I would play school for hours, and often include our neighborhood friends. … The very best part for me would be when I would get to be teacher. I would get to write with THE red pen and sit in the front desk. But most importantly, I would get to help my students.” The childhood dream of becoming a teacher probably never included winning the prestigious North Dakota Teacher of the Year award, but that is the new reality for Dauwen. On Sept. 28, at a ceremony in the gymnasium at Sheyenne, Dauwen was given the 2017 award as the state’s top teacher by Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler.

2017 Teacher of the Year, Nanci Dauwen, receives award from Gov. Jack Dalrymple at Sheyenne High School.

“We know that what happens in this school, and what happens to you, is all about the teachers you have,” Gov. Dalrymple said in introducing the crowd to Dauwen and the three finalists for this year’s award, Thomas Kjelland of Valley City, Jennifer Kujanson of Fargo, and Kristi Leigh Mahrer of Wahpeton. “And that is the reason why we want to all be together for this moment, to recognize and thank our teachers for their dedication to education excellence.” Dauwen has taught mathematics in West Fargo since 2005, and taught in Fargo and Jamestown before that. She has worked as a teacher for 28 years, and has been a member of North Dakota United since she started. “This is my 29th year as a member,” Dauwen said. “I think I might have joined the student organization my senior year of college. But I think that’s really important to be able to share ideas with other colleagues, and that there’s support available if you need it.” In addition, Dauwen was the 2016-17 Professional Staff Member of the Year award winner for West Fargo Public Schools. “We are here in the presence, today, of many great teachers,” Baesler said in her remarks at the award ceremony. “To honor a person who has been chosen as one of the very best teachers in North Dakota. We are here to celebrate her as our 27th North Dakota Teacher of the Year.

Dauwen speaks to students at Sheyenne High School.

“What I’ve learned about Mrs. Dauwen is that she prepares you, as students, to be ready for any path you choose after high school. She prepares you to be ready for college or technical school, or possibly to enter the work force or military, immediately. But whatever you prepare to do, she works to prepare you for that choice.” Dauwen said she is thankful for the support she has received as an educator, from everyone around her. “I also give a great deal of credit to those teachers who have served as amazing role models in my life,” Dauwen said. “It was easy to see their passion for education, but most importantly, their passion for their students. They cared, they pushed and they made a difference. I strived to be like them.” She additionally thanks the students she has taught over her years in the profession. “I have always believed that when you have built relationships with students, they will care and will want to learn,” she said. “They will want to do well. Once the relationship is built, the curriculum is generally the easy part!”

Finalists for the 2017 Teacher of the Year.

Dauwen listed suicide prevention as her primary cause to pursue during her tenure as Teacher of the Year. She was inspired to make that decision by the tragic death by suicide of a student at Sheyenne this past year. “I watched as my daughter and her friends struggled with the loss,” Dauwen said. “I watched as our staff, including me, struggled with the loss. ‘WHY?’ We had no idea that this young man was fighting a serious battle. What can we do?” “It will take us a great time to heal, but I am very glad that we have each other,” she said about all of the teachers and education support professionals in West Fargo. “We are supporting one another and our students. The purple bands that the family bought for our staff and students say, ‘Stop. Listen. Talk.’ I hope we as teachers and staff can follow this message and help our students to do the same.”

Dauwen teachers in her classroom at Sheyenne High School in West Fargo.

She ended her remarks at the ceremony by quoting the song, “For Good,” from the musical, “Wicked.” “My favorite song finishes up by saying this: ‘Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better, but because I knew you, I’ve been changed for the good.’ I’m very lucky to know all of you, and I thank you for believing in me. Most of all, I thank you for supporting me. I will try my best to represent you as North Dakota Teacher of the Year.”


Thomas Kjelland, instrumental music teacher at Valley City High School


Valley City music teacher was finalist for Teacher of the Year By Kelly Hagen, For Thomas Kjelland, an instrumental music teacher at Valley City High School, inspiration to teach and to play music came early from a special educator and friend. “My first band teacher was terrific,” Kjelland said. “When I told him I wanted to play the biggest instrument in the band, he was very supportive. A scrawny, little fifth-grader who could hardly hold a sousaphone did not seem a likely fit, but Mr. Peterson encouraged me, arranged for a special chair that would support the sousaphone and gave me as much help as I need.” Now, Mr. Kjelland plays that same role in the lives of the students he teaches and supports. “I believe my greatest contributions are giving the students the knowledge and skills to be able to enjoy an activity long after their athletic days are over,” he said. “I tell the students they have a special talent. Most people can sing any time, but to be able to play an instrument is a special talent they have honed, and even if they do not use it all the time, it is a skill that is always with them.” Kjelland grew up in Valley City. He graduated from Valley City High School, and received his Bachelor of Science degree, with a composite major in instrumental and vocal music, from Valley City State University. “I have lived in this community my entire life,” he said, “so I know the area and residents really well.” As an educator in his community, Kjelland feels it is his responsibility to act as a professional and set the right kind of example for those around him. “That is what teachers are – professionals,” he said, “as they have been trained 10

professionally to work with young people in a special way. Teachers should carry themselves with dignity in the classroom and in the community. I have told my son, who teaches in Oakes, that no matter where you are or what you are doing, you are still a teacher in the eyes of the students, parents and community, so make sure you act accordingly.” He considers it a great honor to have been named the 2015-16 Valley City Public Schools Teacher of the Year, and a finalist for North Dakota Teacher of the Year, but he freely shares these accolades with his fellow educators in Valley City. “It’s very exciting,” Kjelland said. “It means I’m representing a fabulous staff. It reflects what we do in this school, and I was lucky enough to get chosen.” Kjelland has been a member of Valley City Education Association since he began his stint as Valley City High School Instrumental Director in 2005. Being part of his local association has helped him to feel more assured as a professional educator. “It means I’ve got backing in the classroom, if I need it,” he said. “It keeps you up on trends. The information you get from membership is fabulous. It’s just the security of getting new information and having help if you need it.” Kjelland is most thankful for the personal support that teaching has brought into his own life. “Teaching keeps you young, first of all,” he said. “Working with kids is amazing. I get kids for seven years, so I get to watch them from little kids to young adults, and how they grow. That I can be a part of that is just great.” ND United Voices

Jennifer Kujanson, second grade teacher at Ed Clapp Elementary School in Fargo


Teacher of the Year finalist from Fargo makes every child feel special By Kelly Hagen, As a second-grade teacher at Ed Clapp Elementary School in Fargo, Jennifer Kujanson’s student-centered approach to education played a huge role in her selection as 2016 Fargo Teacher of the Year and finalist for North Dakota Teacher of the Year. It’s fitting for her to receive her own award, as she annually holds her own “Awards Ceremony” in her classroom, at the end of each year. “I create a special award for every child in my classroom, based on something unique to them,” Kujanson said. “Students have talked to me many years later and let me know they kept their award from second grade because it was unique, just for them. I think it’s essential for every child to feel important and needed in their classroom.” Those close relationships are at the core of Kujanson’s teaching philosophy. “Although developing personal relationships takes a lot of time and energy, each year I choose to learn as much as possible about every student in my class,” Kujanson said. “I get to know their likes and dislikes. I understand what motivates them and what can make them shut down. I also share many personal stories so they know about me and my life outside of school. Whenever this is some available time, my students will often beg for a ‘Mrs. Kunanson story.’” Kujanson also fosters relationships at the building and district level. “Being actively involved in committees helps teachers stay abreast of what is on the horizon in teaching and also gives each of us the opportunity to ask questions and provide input when decisions are being made district-wide,” she said.

Kujanson serves on two district task forces, for reading and retention. As a member of the Fargo Education Association, Kujanson stays active as a building representative, and she says that she appreciates the communications and networking opportunities she receives by being part of her union. “I feel like there are so many resources I can go to, because we are such a large organization,” she said. “The publications that come out, reading the magazines, the newsletters, all of that, is a huge resource. I was just reading a magazine on our way here, and reading things to my husband out loud, saying, ‘Oh, listen to this! It sounds like our kid!’ or ‘This is in the classroom.’” Communicating with her students is central to Kujanson’s philosophy of teaching. “My favorite time of each day in the classroom is our Morning Meeting,” she said. She explained that the students will partner up, and talk about their “high and lows.” This teaches them listening skills, like making eye contact and remembering what their partner said, so they can repeat it to the class. “Our Morning Meeting creates a classroom community, which quickly turns into a family,” Kujanson said. “I still get teary-eyed, remembering how many students shared that their high was how many friends they have made this year, and their low was they won’t have the same classmates next year.”


“I think my students know that I work hard for them, and in turn, most of them work hard for me.” – Kristi Leigh Mahrer, English Language Arts teacher for Wahpeton High School

Kristi Leigh Mahrer, English Language Arts teacher at Wahpeton High School


ToY finalist from Wahpeton believes in rigor, raising the bar By Kelly Hagen, One traumatic event helped to shape the career choice of Kristi Leigh Mahrer, an English Language Arts teacher at Wahpeton High School and North Dakota Teacher of the Year finalist.

including a unique personality, knowledge and passion for both subject matter and the science of teaching, the desire for life-long learning, and a heart for serving other people, especially students.”

Her parents were both high school teachers while she grew up in Beulah – her dad taught science and physical education classes, and her mother was an English and learning-disabilities teacher. “We lived across the street from the high school,” Mahrer said. “We would often accompany our parents to the school in the evenings and throughout the summer months while they prepared for lessons, classes or activities. I was never under the impression that teaching was a 40-hour-per-week or nine-months-out-of-theyear job.”

She says her simplified philosophy would be: “Work hard and have fun.”

And during Mahrer’s freshman year in high school, her dad died. “He had gone over to play basketball at the high school with another teacher and my younger brother and sister the evening before Thanksgiving,” she said. “He had a heart attack. He was rushed to the hospital, but he had additional heart attacks and died that night.”

While teaching, she has also worked hard within her local associations, as a leader and active participant. “I think being involved in a professional organization is very important, and not to just be a member but to get involved in the process,” Mahrer said. “When I taught in Hankinson, I had been president of their local association. And in Wahpeton, I was also co-president at one time of our local. I think those experiences of being involved have really helped me to see a broader perspective.”

She said that losing her father so suddenly had a profound effect on the teacher she would become. “Immediately after his death and for years to come, people would share stories about my father’s influence as a teacher and a coach,” she said. “During his life, I seriously doubt that my father understood the impact of his generous spirit. He lived by a rather simple mantra: See a need; respond to it. That is the legacy that I believe my siblings and I have tried to emulate.” Mahrer started her career in teaching at Hankinson High School in 1994, and would transition to Wahpeton in 1999, where she has taught English since. From her start, she has treated teaching as a “personal calling, not just a job,” she said. “Teaching is not a sidebar,” she continued, “teaching penetrates every aspect of life. I believe that a good teacher is a conglomeration of many things, 12

“I think my students know that I work hard for them, and in turn, most of them work hard for me,” Mahrer said. “I believe in rigor. I believe in raising the bar. I want my students to read more and write more in my classroom than they ever have before. I want them to surpass their expected growth on their standardized tests. I want them to feel like they are ready when it is time to go to college, the military or a career.”

The payoff for her hard work and dedication to her profession, her students and her co-workers is in the progress that she sees being made every day in her classroom. “I often tell others that one of the best fringe benefits of my job is that I am never bored,” she said. “There is always something to do, and the students constantly keep me on my toes. Teaching is not easy – at least it never has been for me. The game is always changing. The stakes are always high. For the most part, the rewards are intrinsic, but every so often I am graced with a wonderful e-mail, letter or card from a student, parent or colleague, thanking me for the work I do. These are the treasures that keep me going and the pearls that I look back on when I have had ‘one of those days.’” ND United Voices


Election Results

NDU was instrumental in election of superintendent, legislators and approval of Measure Two North Dakota United would like to congratulate all of our recommended legislative candidates in the 2016 general election who won their races for office. We first congratulate Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler, of Bismarck, for winning re-election to office on the statewide ballot. We look forward to working closely with Superintendent Baesler in building up and protecting our public education system in the state of North Dakota. In addition, we congratulate all of the members of North Dakota United for leading the way in advocating for a “yes” vote on Measure Two. With your help, we were able to convince the public to overwhelmingly support this important measure for K-12 education funding in the upcoming session. Legislators will now be allowed to use funds from the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund (FASF) that exceed 15 percent of the previous biennium expenditure of General Fund dollars toward K-12 education, for “education-related purposes.” North Dakota United will be working closely with legislators early in the session to narrow down the definition to K-12 public education. Measure Two’s success at the ballot box was all due to you, though. Thank you for your help! And congratulations to all of the following NDU-endorsed candidates from across the state, for winning their races to serve in the North Dakota Legislature: North Dakota Senate: Sen. John Grabinger District 12 Sen. Larry Robinson District 24 Sen. Jim Dotzenrod District 26 Sen. Dick Dever District 32 Sen. Karen Krebsbach District 40

Kirsten Baesler State Superintendent

With your help, we were able to convince the public to overwhelmingly support this measure for K-12 education funding in the upcoming session.”

North Dakota House of Representatives: Rep. Corey Mock District 18 Rep. Rick Holman District 20 Rep. Mike Nathe District 30 Rep. Joshua Boschee District 44 Rep. Karla Rose Hanson District 44 We encourage any of our members to take a moment to reach out to these legislators who have been elected or re-elected, and congratulate them on their success. Particularly if you live in their district, make yourself acquainted with them, and tell them your stories about the important work you do each day for the students and citizens of our great state.

Thank you for what you do for North Dakota


NDSU faculty and staff listen to legislators at Open Forum.

HEARING FROM HIGHER ED Legislators meet with NDSU employees at Open Forum By Kelly Hagen,

The North Dakota Legislature and higher education system don’t always see eye to eye. Certain legislators think they know better how to run the system than the State Board of Higher Education or even the university administrators and presidents. It’s a battle every session to get the voices of faculty and staff from our state’s 11 public universities heard by the legislators. North Dakota United wants to help insert your thoughts and concerns into the decision process for higher education in our state. As part of that process, NDU hosted a Legislative Open Forum on the campus of North Dakota State University on Nov. 29, and invited all faculty and staff at the state’s largest university to come and speak with 15 assembled legislators, and let them know what is happening on the front lines, what areas need attention from our state’s policymakers, and how we can work together to improve the quality of education that our universities are offering to the students who arrive on campus each year to learn. One concern voiced by NDU member Carol Cwiak was the lack of an emergency manager on campus at NDSU. With all of the recent incidents of violence and shootings at college campuses across the country, employees worry about the safety of their colleagues and of the students. Sen. Kyle Davison indicated his support for adding an emergency manager to the staff. Another member of NDU, Carrie Ane Platt, kicked off a lengthy discussion with the legislators by signaling that faculty shortages are making it very difficult to deliver improvements in student retention and graduation rates. Sen. Davison and Sen. Ron 14

ND United Voices

Rep. Joshua Boschee, left, listens to Sen. Tim Mathern speak at NDSU Legislative Forum.

Sen. Tim Mathern speaks to the assembled crowd at the NDSU Legislative Open Forum.

Sorvaag debated different viewpoints on how to measure this data, which signaled that the Legislature isn’t currently of a singular mind on what needs to be measured to determine successes.

The group urged our members to not presume legislators know what is going on, so reach out and share your thoughts on bills and appropriations. And always include your name and address.

Sen. Tim Mathern and Rep. Ron Guggisberg both remarked that it’s important that legislators – particularly those who represent districts outside of Cass County – need to be reminded about NDSU’s land-grant status. Sen. Davison then talked about the need to find efficiencies by working across the N.D. University System and Tri-College to get course offerings, investments of the Legislature in buildings, and the need to look at the compensation structure to keep competiveness.

Carol Cwiak challenged the Legislature to do more to support our veterans who are seeking higher education across the state. Multiple legislators seemed intrigued by those ideas, and asked questions about what types of services they need.

“In regard to losing staff and faculty,” Sen. Davison said that the university is always going to be losing people, and that salary “does not tell the whole story.” “NDSU needs to work more on campus to problem solve,” he said. Rep. Joshua Boschee, a North Dakota United member and former employee at NDSU, helped to explain to colleagues what different teaching loads imply, and all of the other duties that are expected of faculty at NDSU, in addition to classroom time. Many of the legislators in attendance at the forum stressed the importance of hearing from higher education faculty and staff during the session, as they consider bills that affect their professions. Rep. Kathy Hogan made it clear that legislators NEED to hear our stories. “Without hearing your voice,” she said, “you get drowned out in the melee.” Sen. Sorvaag seconded Hogan, and said that it was incredibly important that legislators hear from their constituents prior to their votes, and that he often listens to feedback from students.

NDU member Abby Gold noted the critical importance of benefits to employee retention and recruitment. Rep. Boschee urged our members to monitor the North Dakota Public Employee Retirement System (NDPERS) board for action on public employee benefits, in addition to the Legislature. Rep. Pam Anderson noted that she sits on the NDPERS board, and she relayed that the group was committed to maintaining the status quo on health insurance. Sen. Sorvaag said that there is no big push to cut health insurance benefits in the Legislature. The legislators in attendance all seemed to agree that the benefit package currently in place for public employees and higher education faculty and staff is a key ingredient to recruitment and retention. NDU Assistant Executive Director Ryan Nagle told the group of 38 NDSU employees afterward that he felt the event was successful. “You all left a very strong impression on our legislators,” Nagle said, “and made it clear NDSU employees will be paying attention during the coming session. Now, our next step will be to stay vigilent together during the session and ensure they hear from all of us like they did at our forum.” 15


New educators get professional assistance from associations By Kelly Hagen,

When you first started your career in education or public service, why did you join North Dakota United? Early educators need all the professional assistance they can possibly receive, and NDU can give you that, and much more. Your fellow members of NDU and your local association are teachers and education support professionals with valuable insight to share with you. They’ve been there, in the first years of their profession, and have faced the challenges you are now facing. You can learn from them, join forces with them and stand together with them for a better future. We talked to an early educator in Grand Forks recently, Cierra Hangsleben, who is in her seventh year of teaching. She graduated from University of North Dakota in December of 2009, and began teaching full-time in Hazen in 2010. She taught there through Thanksgiving break in 2013, at which point she moved to Grand Forks with her husband, and substitute taught through the end of the 2013-14 school year, and then was hired to teach full-time at Discovery Elementary School. We wanted to know why she joined her professional associations, and why she thinks every new educator should become part of their own. And her story provides a good, concrete example of how our members can benefit, professionally and personally, from not only joining their union, but being active in their local and maximizing their membership. “I joined when I was a student,” Hangsleben said, “For the liability piece, and just the protection of knowing that if anything happened, I had somebody who knew the ins and outs of things. And then I just signed up in Hazen,” when she started teaching there. “It was just never a question,” she said. “I know my husband is always questioning it. ‘You know, it’s a lot of money,’ he says, but no, I tell him, you don’t get a say,” she said with a laugh. “It’s security, it’s comfort. I know not everybody has that.” She joined Grand Forks Education Association (GFEA) when she began teaching in that community in 2013, but admits she wasn’t active as a member. Until Sept. 11, 2014, and an unexpected event in her personal life opened her eyes to the value of being a member and activist within GFEA. “I was teaching third grade,” she said, “and then I got a phone call from my daycare that my son had broken his leg. So I went to my principal immediately and told her I needed to leave. They found someone for my room, and I quickly typed up plans while she was finding someone for my room. And then I left and went to the Emergency Room, and was there. And then Friday, I was gone and my team helped make plans, and then I was also gone Monday and another day.” When she returned to work, she filled out family sick leave without thinking too much about it. And several months later, she was talking about the incident with a co-worker over lunch, and was told she should talk to GFEA President Tom Young about the possibility of utilizing a new feature of their district’s contract, emergency leave. “At that point, emergency leave was a new addition to our agreement,” Young said. “And at that point, Human Resources didn’t really have this on their radar, and we didn’t have a lot of history on what this emergency leave should be used for.” 16

ND United Voices

He arranged a meeting with the superintendent, and discussed Hangsleben’s case, along with three other emergency-leave issues that had happened at the same time. At the heart of the issue was a lack of clarity as to what constituted an emergency. “That’s the language in there,” said Kyle Entzel, GFEA Vice President. “An emergency will be defined as a crisis over which the individual has no control and cannot be attended to during nonschool hours.” And Young added, “And that is the language that I brought back to them and said, ‘What part of this is inappropriate use of emergency leave?’ There’s absolutely room for family-health emergencies in this leave.” With Young’s assistance, Hangsleben was able to use a half-day of emergency leave instead of her own family sick leave time, for the day that her son was hurt and taken to the hospital. She said that this incident, and working with Young and GFEA inspired her to get more involved with her association. She now serves as a building representative for GFEA, and regularly participates in her local union. She admits that she stayed quiet as a member in her first years because she felt unqualified to speak up. “For me, it was a standpoint where I felt like I would be at a disadvantage because I didn’t have the background or the experience of being in the district,” she said. “The question would be, then, what time and how long do you wait before you decide to share your new ideas with somebody?” Young responded. “When am I ready to break this new idea into the world? You should not sit at the kids’ table until you’re the right age, and then you can start participating. If you’ve got ideas, that’s when you should be going with it.” Entzel is also very early in his education career, but has similarly felt a calling to be as active in his association as he can be. He is

now Vice President and will be part of the bargaining team for GFEA when their contract comes up for negotiations. In addition, he is also serving as an NDU member organizer, talking to all of the new educators in the district, GFEA members and nonmembers, and discussing the issues they face, in-person. “The good news is that, it seems like every third person I talk to, has something they’re really fired up about,” Entzel said about his 1:1 meetings with early educators in Grand Forks. “I just talked to a woman last week who is a member, and said, when I came to talk to her, ‘Hey, do you know anything about these NDU grants? I want to go and get my master’s.’ And I said, no, but I will go ask somebody and get you more information. So there’s lots and lots of stories like that.” Young, Entzel and Hangsleben all agree that the biggest hurdle that stands between educators and membership in GFEA is communication, and a lack of understanding about what the association is. “It just seems like there’s a lot that people still misunderstand about GFEA,” Entzel said. “But you, in your first year, second year, third year or whenever, you have a voice and you can advocate for the things that happen in your classroom or whatever population you work with. Younger members seem to understand that quicker.” “I think, with the whole picture of what GFEA is, that’s what people don’t have,” Hangsleben said. “Yes, they know it protects, and that’s a big piece for me. But even just all the other aspects that GFEA can do for someone, or that it is a place to come together and talk about whatever.” “I think we’re about to start redefining that right now,” Young said. “There’s a gap. You guys listen to each other, and you receive that through a way different filter than anything I could say as a veteran teacher. So it’s important that we get this voice into the association and heard, and get these stories going.”

EARLY EDUCATOR OUTREACH CAMPAIGN CONTINUES This fall it was estimated that 170,000 new educators would enter the classroom across the nation. This vast number of new educators was the inspiration behind the New Educator Outreach Campaign launched by the National Education Association. The premise behind the campaign was to engage new educators in 1:1 conversations to collect information about how our association can support their work in the classroom. At North Dakota United, we took on this campaign and hired five early educators to act as member organizers and conduct 1:1 conversations with new educators in targeted locals. Our member organizers are from Fargo, West Fargo, Minot and Grand Forks. They hit the ground running, making welcome bags for new educators in their local. Each member organizer met

with new educators and collected an interest card to help give us information on we could best provide support to these new teachers. Gathering data from the interest cards drove the direction the early educator group, TeachForwardNDU took when planning events this fall. From the conversations and data collected it was clear that our new educators top priority was professional development and student debt. TeachForwardNDU is currently planning debt workshops for this winter and spring.  TeachForward chapters have also launched in several more of our locals to support early educators. 



NDU PD program kicks off with October events, website By Patty Barrette,

On Oct. 20-21, 2016, North Dakota United held our first Professional Development events at the Radisson Inn in Bismarck. Twenty-four members attended four different Train the Trainer sessions over the two days, including Educator Ethics, I Can Do It classroom management, Educating the Whole Child and ParaPower. Attendees learned a lot of valuable information that they can use every day in their jobs. A large part of this training was targeted at our ESP members, as NEA sent trainers in to lead the Whole Child and ParaPower sessions, which included 14 members – including several new ESP members from Hazen. By designing and offering various opportunities for professional development to teachers around the state, in multiple formats, NDU will be ensuring that our teachers teach well and students are successful. Currently in the state of North Dakota, there is a gap between what types of professional development is offered and what educators feel they need. When surveyed, educators graded their district/regional education agencies’ professional development with only 35 percent receiving either an A or B grade, demonstrating a need for high-quality, relevant professional development. 18

ND United Voices

An NEA representative presents ParaPower at the Radisson Inn, Bismarck.

NDU Vice President of Education Karen Christensen listens to Alicia Bata during “I Can Do It” training.

Alicia Bata presents “I Can Do It” training.

Participants listen during ParaPower training.

Alicia Bata presents “I Can Do It” training.

NEA presenters during ParaPower training.

NDU has several more opportunities for members to attend trainings at little to no cost.

UPCOMING EVENTS INCLUDE: Just before our inaugural Train the Trainer events in October, NDU introduced a new website geared entirely to professional development for K-12 educators, ESP, public employees and higher education employees. The goal of this is for NDU to become the go to for high-quality, relevant professional development. This website was made possible through a grant from the National Education Association and allows us to provide a onestop shop for professional development in the state. The website includes pages for upcoming course offerings, outside events and trainings and resources-including webinars, grants and scholarship opportunities. From this site, you can also request a training or propose a training to be held. Go to and check it out today!

Educator Ethics Bismarck, Jan. 14-15, 2017 (0-2 credits available through UND) 2017 NDU Advocacy Conference Mandan, Jan. 27-28, 2017 I Can Do It Fargo, Feb. 4-5, 2017 (0-1 credit available through UND) I Can Do It Bismarck, March 25-26, 2017 (0-1 credit available through UND) Members are eligible for reimbursement up to the total cost of the course, after successful completion of the course. Go to to register and be sure to check back often for more opportunities! If you have a training need, please contact us at 19


Jamestown Education Association brings education documentary to members By Kelly Hagen,

You’ve probably been to a meeting before, right? You know they’re not always a lot of fun. Everybody sits around a conference table, or in rows of chairs pointed toward the speaker. Reports are given, presentations and possibly PowerPoints. You’re talked at; you’re talked with. Maybe Roberts Rules of Order are involved. Maybe you have fun, but probably not. You know what is fun? Movies. Jamestown Education Association President Cody Mickelson and his wife, Emma, JEA’s public relations chair and fellow educator, surely had this concept in mind when they planned their JEA member meeting on Nov. 3, 2016. This meeting took place at the Bison 6 Cinema in Jamestown, and centered around a complimentary viewing of the award-winning documentary on modern education, “Most Likely to Succeed.” After the movie was done, participants were invited over to Tapp’s Lounge, to talk about the film and socialize. “We heard about the film from some other teachers who had seen it at a conference they attended,” Cody Mickelson said. “We also saw the trailer for the film online, that’s what spiked our interest in seeing it ourselves. We had decided during the summer to try to host a screening through JEA during the school year.” As it happened, the Department of Public Instruction had planned a tour of screenings of “Most Likely to Succeed,” which included stops in cities across the 20

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Panelists, including, NDU President Nick Archuleta, at Bismarck screening of “Most Likely to Succeed.”

JEA President Cody Mickelson greets members at Bison 6 Cinema.

A frame from the movie in Jamestown.

JEA President Cody Mickelson and PR Chair Emma Mickelson.

state with panels of education experts and the executive producer of the film, Ted Dintersmith. North Dakota United helped to sponsor this tour, and at the Bismarck showing, NDU President Nick Archuleta participated in the panel afterwards. The Mickelsons had seen NDU communications that went out to members, promoting the movie, and were dismayed that Jamestown was not on the list of cities in which it would be shown. But that presented them with an opportunity. “After we received the NDU emails detailing that the film was touring the state, we were excited - but then disappointed that it wasn’t coming anywhere near Jamestown,” Cody Mickelson said. “Having a screening hosted by JEA was a great way to share the film with others who were interested and unable to attend one of the other showings.” Emma Mickelson contacted DPI and was pointed in the right direction for getting permission to show the film in Jamestown, from the film’s official website at “They were really easy to work with,” Cody said. “Essentially, the film is supposed to be shown to a group and a discussion should occur after. The discussion can be a formal panel

with invited panelists, or a less formal conversation. We opted to keep it light and have an informal discussion at a social afterwards.” The day of the movie arrived, and the event went off without a hitch. “We think it went well,” Cody said. “We had a good turnout from people in the area, some traveling a fair distance. Our discussion afterwards was also well attended, interesting and entertaining.” Based on the results of the movie screening, the leaders at Jamestown Education Association highly recommend their approach to other locals and chapters looking for a different way to bring members together and get them talking about issues pertinent to their profession. “We’re looking to increase participation and dialogue,” Cody said. “Events like this offer a benefit to our members beyond the typical business meeting – though those are important – they should not be the only way our members get together. You can use something like this as a non-intimidating way to get others involved.”


Communications Corner

UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.


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Channel your compassion into constructive communication By Kelly Hagen,

I’m what you could call a Care Bear, if that term isn’t already trademarked by the cartoon of the same name. I care. A lot. I care deeply about my family, of course, as well as my friends and colleagues. Don’t really care for my neighbors, but that’s a different story. I think they had my car towed from in front of my house one time, on the coldest day of the year. I’ll tell you more about it some other time. Beyond that, I care for this state, and for the country as a whole. I care about people, everywhere. I care about individuals, and about communities. I care about what’s going to happen to all of us. And that’s a whole awful lot to always be thinking and caring about. And for the last few weeks, I’ve wanted a whole lot to not care. You read the news, on the Internet, in the newspapers, of all the things that are happening to people locally, in our state, across the country and throughout the world. You’re a member of North Dakota United, and so I feel comfortable in surmising that you care a whole awful lot, too. You don’t join this organization out of apathy. We all have colleagues who treat their jobs like a job. They don’t care what happens. They punch in, do what they’re supposed to do, punch out and go home. They’re not members of NDU, because they don’t care about their profession. It’s difficult to not be envious of that, right? My six-year-old daughter will often respond to my commands to her with the phrase, “I don’t care.” And the lizard brain in me wants to throw up my hands and say, “You know what? I don’t care, either!” Why do I care if she brushes her teeth before bed? Why do I care if she eats green beans? It’d be a lot easier if I didn’t. I’ve been feeling that lizard-brain instinct a lot lately, ever since the election. Because we lost a whole lot of friends in the Legislature. We lost good people who care a whole awful lot about public education and public services. They care about their constituents, about working families and doing the right thing. And I know that the sting of losing their races was made that much worse because they care so much. That’s a hard thing to see happen.

I know that I wouldn’t have to get so worked up, before and after every election, if I was just dialed out. I could do other stuff. Just let life happen. It sounds ideal. I wish I didn’t care. But then I saw The Lorax peeking out from my two-year-old son’s bookshelf the other night. And it has that line: “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” I’d forgotten, but that’s my favorite thing ever written. It’s so perfect. Caring can be awful, because it’s a lot. That’s what makes it so awful, because it’s so immense. But someone has to do it, or it doesn’t get done. I know it hurts to care this much about public services and public education this much, and to see these systems under attack across our country. I understand the pain is so intense when we see students or people we serve struggle mightily, because we care so much. But things don’t get better if we don’t care. Someone has to care a whole awful lot. We should be those someones. And this is where communication comes in. We need you to care enough about the work you do as a professional, about the people we serve, and about the union you belong to, that you share your experiences with the legislators who will be making impactful decisions that will affect your career, your students and citizens of our state, and your association. Often times, our legislators just don’t know what conditions are like on the ground for our public educators and employees. They want to hear what it’s like, so care enough to tell them. Visit and sign up to be an NDU Member Activist. You’ll be the first to hear when bills come up in the next session, and we’ll connect you directly with the decision-makers who need your input. Also, we’ll be putting out as much info about what is happening at the Capitol through our website,, our social media -- and -- e-mails and United Voices. Stay tuned. Thank you for caring so awful much. Together, we can make things better. 23

Member Profile

Marianne Schmitt, administrative assistant at Hazen Elementary School

I just really, really enjoy this role because I feel like I can help the students, I can help the teachers, I can understand what’s going on in the classrooms, I can be a really good liaison between parents and staff.”


Hazen school secretary enjoys being at the center of activity By Kelly Hagen,

Maybe you’ve heard the following said in your school, or seen a meme with this message on social media: “It’s cute how the principal thinks they’re in charge, when everyone knows the school secretary runs everything.” At Hazen Elementary School, administrative assistant Marianne Schmitt laughed while she mentioned having seen that meme on Facebook, but admits it’s kind of true. “Everything kind of goes through the office, and if anybody’s having troubles with anything, it comes through the secretary,” Schmitt said. “When the principal is gone, we act as the principal, and when the counselor is gone, we act as counselor. It’s amazing how many different hats we wear in a job like this.” Schmitt is in her fourth school year as the school secretary for the Elementary School in Hazen. “It sounds corny, but school secretary is the job I always wanted,” she said. She grew up in Bottineau, and has a teaching degree in elementary education and special education from Minot State University. She taught special education in Hazen for five years, before leaving to do other things, including medical transcription and serving as director of the ambulance service in Hazen. But she returned to work at the school when the opportunity to work as administrative assistant opened up. “Someone said to me the other day, ‘You missed your calling,’ Schmitt said. “And I said, ‘No, I didn’t. I have a teaching degree, but this is just where I can utilize that.’ I have that


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Schmitt does not take any of her responsibilities lightly, especially when it comes to protecting the kids and making them feel safe. “Probably what’s most scary to me is that it’s my responsibility to check every person who comes through the door,” she said. “I don’t know every single parent, even in this small town. So sometimes when I let someone in through the door, I don’t know who they are. One time, somebody came and they were carrying this bag. It had handles on it and it was about this long,” she said, motioning with her hands, “and I thought, hmmm, no. So I called the principal and told him, you need to go out and find out what’s going on. It turned out he had tent stakes that he was returning to somebody.” As one part of a close-knit team in a small-town school, Schmitt feels like she can count on her colleagues to help, and that they can count on her assistance, too. “I think that’s very important,” she said. “I think that in our school, we all get along great and do all watch out for each other.”

A large group of educations support professionals gathered for a meeting in Hazen.

background that I’ve been in the school system as a teacher, and I just really, really enjoy this role because I feel like I can help the students, I can help the teachers, I can understand what’s going on in the classrooms, I can be a really good liaison between parents and staff.” For Schmitt, there really is no average day working in the school office because things change so much. Her official work day starts at 7:30 a.m., but it will often start unofficially before that, “usually while I’m still in the shower,” she said. “If teachers need a substitute, they call me at home. So I have all my sub lists at home and cell phone numbers and everything.” Once she’s arrived at school, she gets to work doing several daily tasks, including the morning announcements, tracking attendance, lunch payments and charging out milk for students during their snack break. And when those tasks are done, anything and everything can happen. “It always seems like once I finish one project, then I move onto the next one,” she said. “At lunchtime, I have kids who come in for medicines again. And then again at 2:00. I do a lot of Band-Aids and ice packs. Lot of those kinds of things. I have a lot of kids who come to sit in the office to do their work. I make the lunch menu, the breakfast menu and the birthday calendar, and do the immunization reports. And run report cards and do the mid-terms. I take a ton of phone calls per day. I’m sure my phone rings 50 times per day, at least. Today, we had programs in the building, so it’s constantly opening the doors and letting people in and out.”

She joined the Hazen Education Association at the beginning of this school year, as part of an organizing drive that reached out to education support professionals, and ultimately succeeded in recruiting 50 percent of ESPs in Hazen to join their local. That recruiting effort started with an event in town. “We met on a Sunday night at one of the restaurants in town, and they bought us pizza and explained some of the benefits,” Schmitt said. “After that first initial meeting, they had an HEA meeting on a Sunday night. And they always have their HEA meetings first thing in the mornings, but so many of the ESPs can’t do that. I have to be at my desk at 7:30; they have recess duties and those sorts of things. We can’t do that. So they did a Sunday night one. And they really did that in order to include the ESPs, and talked to the ESPs about how this works and who we are.” Schmitt said she appreciates the efforts to include ESPs in organizing activities, because their jobs are as important as any others in the successes of the school and the students they teach and protect. “The ESPs, like myself, and the aides who also do 50 different jobs, they do make a big difference about how kids behave in the classroom and how all of that goes,” she said. “Kids go up during recess and talk to those playground supervisors about things that are going on in their lives. And they’re able to pass that message along to the staff and to the teachers who need to know. And the kids who come for breakfast in the morning sometimes are kids who just want someone to sit and visit with them.” Her commitment to the kids is what keeps her coming back to work at the school each day. “It means a lot to me,” she said. “I can go home at the end of the day, thinking I helped a kid through a tough situation. We have 310 kids at the school, and I probably eat 300 birthday snacks a year. And it’s just really sweet because they bring in a birthday snack, and they bring them to certain teachers outside of their classroom, and when I get one, that’s pretty cool. The relationship with the kids, in the smallest, simplest ways, is just really cool.” 25


Issues can be resolved with a single phone call to NDU By Kelly Hagen,

Within the state’s public health and human services system, the State Hospital in Jamestown stands out as a hallmark treatment center for our most vulnerable citizens. Its history dates back to 1885, making it one of only two public institutions to predate statehood, along with University of North Dakota. Currently, the State Hospital provides adult psychiatric services, transitional living and chemical dependency services to people who need the help. Service from the State Hospital differs from that offered at the eight regional Human Service Centers. From the NDDHS website: “The eight regional Human Service Centers in North Dakota provide community-based treatment for individuals with a mental illness or chemical dependency. These services may be provided on an outpatient residential basis. While many treatment modalities may be similar (medication therapy, counseling, skills training, etc.), services are provided in the community setting. The State Hospital provides treatment in a more structured environment to meet the needs of those who need more intensity than community-based services can provide.� What this means is that the State Hospital is able to provide a level of service to its patients unlike anywhere else in the state of North Dakota. This facility is able to change lives, and drastically improve the quality of life for those who are suffering the most. Long-time NDSH employees Neil and Connie Suko have worked at the State Hospital, in separate departments, for a combined total of 46 years. 26

ND United Voices

For most of that time, they have both been members of North Dakota United and their predecessor union, North Dakota Public Employees Association. “I used to work, actually, at the switchboard when I started in ’88,” Connie said. “I worked there for about a year, and then I got hired on in medical records.” She describes her daily work as “filing, filing and filing.” All of the records she works with are on paper. “What we do is we put the charts together, 60 days after a patient is discharged. And then, after that, it gets scanned into the computer. Otherwise we wouldn’t have room for anything.” Both of them enjoy their jobs, and feel gratified that they are able to make a difference in the lives of people by what they do professionally. They live 30 miles away from the State Hospital. “We live on a farm,” Neil said. “Out in the middle of nowhere,” Connie added. And Connie always gets to work on time, no matter what the weather conditions are. “Believe me,” Neil said, “I’ve plowed snow in the wee hours of the morning so she could get out.”

They called NDU representative Gisele Thorson, who listened to their story. Not keeping up with work flow is probably a problem for a lot of state agencies in the current climate. Public workers across the state are all dealing with expanding workloads. Budget cuts have meant that open positions are often left unfilled, so less and less hands are assisting an expanding population in the state. Thorson called a human resource officer at the Department of Human Services to discuss the issue. The situation was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. They say they feel relieved by the outcome, and are thankful to the State Hospital for taking another look at the situation. They also very much appreciate the assistance they received from NDU. “It is good to have someone to call if needed,” Neil said. Contact the NDU Help Center at (701)223-0450 or helpcenter@ if you ever have any questions or concerns about your rights and responsibilities at work. Our expert staff stands ready to help you resolve any outstanding issues.

Recently a concern rose about work flow in Connie’s department, and her supervisor put a written request into her personnel file that the Sukos don’t feel comfortable with sharing publicly.


2017 NDU ADVOCACY CONFERENCE Theme: Political Advocacy Friday, January 27, 2017, 7:00-10:00 p.m. Saturday, January 28, 2017, 8:00 a.m.-3:15 p.m. Baymont Inn, Mandan, ND Register at The 2017 North Dakota United Advocacy Conference includes lots of great content, tailored to appeal to all members -- K-12 teachers, education support professionals (ESPs), higher education faculty and staff, public employees, students and retirees.

The idea of an all-member Advocacy Conference came from NDU President Nick Archuleta’s desire in 2014 to bring together members from each of NDU’s constituency groups in one place to discuss issues important to all of us. “The Advocacy Conference is important as we continue to merge the cultures of the two predecessor organizations and create opportunities to meet as one unified organization,” said President Archuleta. Conference registration and check-in (hotel lobby) runs from 7 to 10 p.m. on Jan. 27 with a general session at 8 p.m. After NDU President Nick Archuleta welcomes participants to the conference, there will be a featured guest speaker. Saturday morning starts with registration and breakfast at 8:00 a.m. There will be break-out sessions held during the breakfast with topics tailored to K-12 Teachers, ESP, public employees, and higher education, beginning at 8:30. General Sessions will follow after. Participants are asked to register in advance. You can register online at news/2017-ndu-advocacy-conference/. NDU will provide each local or chapter assistance for its members attending the 2017 Advocacy Conference. Reimbursement requires that the individual be in attendance through the final session on Saturday. Vouchers will be provided during the final session.  In addition, NDU will provide, at no cost to the participant, breakfast and lunch on Saturday. Locals and chapters are encouraged to reimburse individuals for actual expenses incurred by members of their local over the assistance provided by NDU. Room reservations should be made directly with the Baymont Inn at 701-663-7401. Be sure to mention that you will be attending the ND United Conference on Jan. 27-28, 2017. The conference rate for a single room is $80.10 or a double room is $89.00 plus tax. The NDU room block will be held through Jan. 13, 2017. 


ND United Voices


A MILLENNIAL OPPORTUNITY Young educators have a chance to change the world of education

In the early hours of Nov. 9, like many Americans, I found myself asking the question, “What now?” Precincts from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin had just been announced in favor of Donald J. Trump – the man who will become the 45th President of the United States. And while the plurality of Americans voted for his Democratic opponent, America will now experience another wave of reform and change to our political system – a breath of fresh air for many, and a tremor of fear for the rest. It is morning in America. No, not mourning - the kind of morning I woke up to on Monday. As I opened my eyes, I remembered that in just four short days I had five papers due, and a busy work schedule to confront my already tired brain. Because I chose to enjoy some family time during the Thanksgiving holiday over incessant coursework, I knew I shouldn’t complain. Instead, I recalled a quote from a British statesman and said in my head: “Let’s get it done.” Much like my schedule, America will soon be saddled with the task of ruminating over a new executive’s policies, which will likely be as eclectic as his Twitter feed. As new political legislation is ushered in, America’s current educational structure will meet revision – vast revision if certain individuals have their way. Some changes may be good; some may bring our society and classrooms detriment. While the future is dubious and we find ourselves weary from a vicious political cycle, we must commit ourselves to furthering the benevolence of public education to strengthen our society and ultimately provide peace to our world.

By Landen Schmeichel SNDU President

As part of what many in the media and senior individuals at your local coffee shop may refer to as “millennials,” parcels of my generation are finding themselves in disarray. Though I do not identify with their drastic rhetoric of “end of the world” discussion as a result of both national and local elections, I am among this age group. From many people, I often hear that we – members of the millennial breed – are confused, lazy and ignorant. It is often stated that we jump on bandwagons without informing ourselves about both sides of an issue; we avoid hard tasks; and we will bring about the destruction of America. All of these ideas are as ill-informed as that last independent clause, though stereotypes are often not contrived. These ideas could find resonance in the description of every generation, with the possible exception of Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation,” though. While they offer ridicule, what many fail to realize about the millennial generation is the vast power that lies within our grasp. Composing a large percentage of Americans, we could significantly alter elections – if we turned out to vote. We could change things in our society through proper means and ways – if we chose productive methods. We could be the generation that Robert F. Kennedy spoke about – a generation that defines a lasting legacy in human history. Millennials could do all of these things if we have the correct approach, the proper attitude. Our task may seem daunting. America must discover a way to unite, a way to inspire. America should seek a catalyst for positive change, for success of all people. But we will fail to do these things when we simply choose not to get them done. When we close ourselves in and say, “It is someone else’s job.” When we suggest that a generation is incapable of bringing good to the order, and when we find more satisfaction in spreading malice in our words over charity, we then become what our stereotypes suggest. Thus, it is my generation’s duty to do what Winston Churchill spoke over the radio when Nazi-German bombs were dropped on London in the Second World War: “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’” As President of Student-North Dakota United (SNDU), a leader for the next generation of public educators, I will join with my cohorts across this great nation to “brace” ourselves for our duties, to fight for what is best for our students, and to be remembered as a generation who “got it done.” Will you join me in this endeavor?


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ND United Voices



We need your help to protect education

On Feb. 24, 2009, President Obama in his Address to the Joint Session of Congress said, “In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a prerequisite.”

By Nancy Peterson NDU-Retired President

When NDU puts out a call or sends an e-mail, please assist us as we need the power of our membership in maintaining and strengthening our association.”

President Obama’s words are even more important today than probably any other time in recent memory. With the election over and a new administration coming into power, we as an association must work harder than ever before. If the nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is approved, public education will be working even harder to hold onto funding as DeVos is a strong “school choice” activist. The National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers and North Dakota United will need to activate its memberships to fight to keep public education strong and meeting the needs of all students. For retired members, what changes will happen to Social Security and Medicare? In 2011, Donald Trump said, “Some Republicans see Social Security and Medicare as ‘entitlement programs.’” Will Trump be able to hold off a move to change these programs? What will he do to stop attacks on pensions? Good questions. There are a lot of questions out there, and we as an association must organize our resources to be able to advocate and fight for our deserved and earned benefits. Are you ready to help us? Good, I knew we could count on you. When NDU puts out a call or sends an e-mail, please assist us as we need the power of our membership in maintaining and strengthening our association. May 2017 be a great year for you, your family, our association and our nation.

YES, SIGN ME UP NOW IN NDU/NEA/AFT-RETIRED Complete and mail with your check today to NDU-Retired, 301 N 4th St, Bismarck, ND 58501-4020 Name: _______________________________________Social Security Number: __________________ Address: ___________________________________________________________________________ City: _________________________________________ State: ______________ Zip: ______________ Phone: ______________________________E-mail:_________________________________________ Local Association: __________________________Signature: _______________________Date: ______ _______ I wish to join as Annual Retired and pay $49 per year. Mail this form and your check to NDU, 301 N 4th Street, Bismarck, ND 58501-4020. (NDU membership year is from Sept. 1 to August 31.) _______ I wish to pay a one-time payment of $409 for Lifetime Retired. Expected Date of Retirement ___________ (month/year) _______ I wish to pay one payment of $49 and have 9 (nine) electronic transfers of $40 from my bank account for Lifetime Retired.




















North Dakota United 301 N 4th St Bismarck, ND 58501-4020


ND United Voices

United Voices, Vol. 3 No. 2  

The January 2017 issue of United Voices, the official publication of North Dakota United, profiles the 2017 Teacher of the Year winner, Nanc...