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Helmut Schmidt, Published March 20 2012

Davies principal makes pitch to be superintendent

FARGO – Jeff Schatz is ready for the next step in his career, and he’s hoping it won’t involve going farther than from his office at Davies High School to the superintendent’s office downtown.

Schatz, a Fargo native and Davies High’s first principal, spent Tuesday in a daylong series of meetings with several groups – including teachers and administrators and ending with the school board – as one of three finalists for the Fargo School District’s top job.

Rather than championing any specific initiatives if he got the job, Schatz said it’s up to the community to determine what it wants to see in its schools.

He said he’d meet with various groups and individuals to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the district. It’s “a time-intensive process,” he told the school board. “To me, it’s all about collaboration and listening.”

He sees several challenges ahead for the district, including:

E Aligning the district’s education standards with what are called “common core standards” that many states, including North Dakota, have adopted to ensure students learn what they need to succeed in the 21st century.

Teachers must be ready to teach to the higher standards and students must know that more will be expected of them, he said.

“The amount of rigor that’s going to be required of students” is greatly increased, he said.

E Technology and how it’s used in learning.

“How are we making that more student-centered will be a challenge for us,” he said. “And ultimately also an opportunity,”

That may include greater use of personal data devices, such as iPads, or laptops in schools, that give students more freedom to advance their learning.

E Financial issues. This summer’s vote on Measure 2, an initiative designed to end the property tax system in North Dakota, would upend how education is financed, he said.

Also, state law will require the district to ask voters to approve an excess mill levy by 2015. Without that approval, administrators have said the district could lose up to $10 million a year in revenue by 2020.

Schatz said he’s a good communicator and can get people to collaborate.

He said he’s also good at looking at “the big picture” when dealing with issues, he said.

His weakness?

“There is just never enough time to get it all done. For me, it sometimes feels as if you can never fit it all in,” he said in a meeting with media.

Where he’s come a long way is learning patience, he told the board.

“Sometimes, you can’t rush the process,” he said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

Schatz graduated from North Dakota State University in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education.

He received his master’s (1994) and doctoral (2002) degrees in educational administration from the University of North Dakota.

From 1983 to 1985, he taught and coached at Sargent Central High School in Forman.

From 1985 to 2009, he worked with the Grand Forks School District in several capacities: teacher, coach, district athletic director, associate principal and 11 years as head principal at Central High School.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

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