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Published July 07 2010

Forum editorial: West Fargo schools look ahead

When West Fargo schools hired David Flowers in May as the district’s new superintendent, a Forum editorial described it as “a wise choice.”

That assessment has not changed. Flowers, who served seven years as Fargo’s school superintendent before moving to Kansas, returns to the area with a reputation as a qualified educator/ administrator. More importantly, he brings with him collaborative and diplomatic abilities that will be needed as West Fargo emerges from several years of turmoil and discontent.

Flowers’ success with the Fargo School District was universally praised. Had he chosen to stay rather than move to his native Kansas, he likely would still be Fargo’s superintendent.

However, his seasoning in Fargo and Kansas, plus his demonstrated willingness to listen and adjust, is just what West Fargo needs. The fastest-growing public school district in North Dakota has experienced growing pains made even more painful by administrative tone-deafness. While support for West Fargo schools has not wavered, it has taken on a more confrontational aspect among many constituents. One result has been failure of the school board to convince enough voters that a building bond issue is necessary to accommodate growth.

Last month’s school board election reflected the mixed sentiments in the district. Longtime board members were re-elected, but so were newcomers who had been critical of the board.

Flowers’ foremost challenge will be to restore trust among those West Fargo residents who believe trust and communication were eroded during the past few years. Without overstating expectations, if anyone can put West Fargo back on the right school track, it’s Flowers. He can’t do it alone, of course. No superintendent can. But he’s come on board at the right time. The people of the district have had the chance to vent at the polls. The former superintendent, whose tenure was marked by controversy, is history. As a result of the last two failed building bond votes, the space needs of the district are being addressed by a revised and more focused proposal. Flowers’ role in getting the building and renovation projects under way will be pivotal.

West Fargo schools negotiated a rough patch the past few years. But two major developments – hiring Flowers and an important election – have changed the atmosphere for the better.

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