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Helmut Schmidt, Published September 24 2013

Fargo's graduating seniors see future in staying close to home

FARGO – Most students who graduated earlier this year from Fargo’s public high schools don’t plan to stray far from home to work.

In the first year of a new senior survey taken at the district’s three comprehensive high schools, North, South and Davies, 65 percent of students polled said they want to find a job in Fargo, with 8.9 percent planning to work elsewhere in North Dakota and another 8.9 percent eyeing a job in Minnesota.

Carey Fry, manager of the Job Service North Dakota office in Fargo, said the good publicity the state receives for its strong economy, rising wages and a healthy job market apparently grabbed the grads’ attention.

“A few years ago, people felt they had to go elsewhere to get a good job,” Fry said. “I do see that we have turned the corner on that.”

The survey was presented to the School Board on Tuesday.

More than three out of four seniors, 76 percent, said they plan to attend a four-year college, with 12 percent planning to attend a two-year tech school, the survey found.

North High School Principal Andy Dahlen said he was surprised by the higher education responses, though he said seniors do change their minds when it comes to where they finally send transcripts.

“Our data indicates about 66 percent plan on a four-year college and 16 percent plan on a two-year college.” he said.

Fry said changing to a two-year college may be a smart move for grads.

There’s a high demand for people with skills in the trades, such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers, welders and mechanics, she said, as well as people who can work in manufacturing, medical and technology fields, and who have oilfield skills.

“That’s where the bulk of the jobs are,” Fry said.

Dahlen said a lot of factors may be in play on where 2013’s seniors figured to make their futures.

“Is that the robust (local) economy? Is it our two universities that went Division I? Is it the academic scholarships that our Legislature offered?” Dahlen asks.

It’s the first year the survey has been taken by seniors. It does not include input from seniors at Woodrow Wilson High School, the district’s alternative high school.

About 4 percent of seniors plan to enter the military, 2 percent want full-time jobs, 2 percent had no plans and 4 percent had other plans, the survey found.

Most students, 64 percent, felt they got a high-quality education, while 8.6 percent disagree. The rest had no opinion.

Seniors felt they were best-prepared in reading, 66.2 percent; followed by writing, 63.3 percent; and mathematics, 62.7 percent. Those who didn’t feel they received a quality education ranged from 8.2 percent in reading to 11.7 percent in math.

Most students surveyed bought into the value of good citizenship and academic honesty:

- 74.6 percent said academic integrity is important to them, 21.7 percent had no opinion and 3.7 percent disagreed.

- 87.7 percent said being a person of good character was important to them, 11 percent had no opinion and 1.3 percent disagreed.

Associate Superintendent Bob Grosz said the low percentage of those who disagreed bodes well for the seniors as being well-rounded people.

“Those two questions alone say a lot about our student population,” he said.

Also, most of the students had a high opinion of their teachers:

- 69.1 percent felt their teachers used technology effectively.

- 78.6 percent made a positive connection with their teachers at school.

- 75.7 percent felt they were treated with respect by their teachers.

Most students, 64.7 percent, felt safe at school, while 5.8 percent did not. Another 29.5 percent had no opinion.

But fewer students felt they were treated with respect at school, 62.9 percent, while 10.1 percent did not. Another 26.9 percent had no opinion.

Grosz said staff at the buildings will analyze the survey results to determine what’s missing in students’ educations.

“It will be interesting to track the results over time,” Dahlen said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583