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Published May 05 2010

Forum editorial: Flowers good pick for West Fargo

The West Fargo School Board’s selection of David Flowers as its new superintendent was a wise choice. Flowers’ tenure as superintendent of the Fargo School District was marked by tackling a slate of tough issues that left the schools in better shape. In West Fargo, he will inherit a dynamic school district with lots of strengths, but will have to repair trust as a first step toward taking on West Fargo’s slate of building needs.

Flowers’ eight years in Fargo, ending in 2007, when he left for Hutchinson, Kan., were a time of major realignments in the schools. He charted a course that balanced the needs of building new schools – setting the stage for a new middle school and third high school – that increased efficiency while keeping school and class sizes manageable. His influence extended beyond the Fargo School District. For example, Flowers’ administration was very active in making the case in Bismarck for more equitable funding formulas.

But his time in Fargo was not without its rough spots. He once sought to close some north-side elementary schools, and changed course after encountering stiff and emotional opposition from parents. That course modification ultimately resulted in keeping open neighborhood schools. Flowers had the ability to keep moving forward with his initiatives, but at the same time recalibrating when confronted by intense opposition that threatened to derail his agenda.

Flowers’ diplomatic skills and ability to adjust will be tested in West Fargo, where voters twice rejected bonding proposals to pay for building projects to accommodate growing enrollments. In fact, his track record for being able to shepherd building projects undoubtedly was one of the main reasons he was chosen in West Fargo.

His supporters in Fargo, pointing to his demonstrated ability to bring people together, predict that he will do well in West Fargo. He will have some fence-mending to do, with teachers as well as voters, to rebuild trust and confidence in the district’s direction. His more optimistic supporters even muse about the possibility of fostering “heightened collaboration” between neighboring Fargo and West Fargo school districts. Collaboration – engaging the public to forge consensus and a shared vision – has been one of his hallmarks. It worked well in Fargo, and should do the same in West Fargo.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.