For discussion

April 2019

Coming Together to Help Students

Luke Schaefer is the Executive Director of Central Regional Education Association (CREA). Luke taught music in grades 5-12 for seven years in Des Lacs-Burlington Public School, ND where he also served as the AdvancEd Lead Team Chair, Tech Team member, and coach for football, wrestling, and track. After serving under multiple principals, he realized his desire to affect change at a different level and changed his role to lead the students and staff of Sawyer Public Schools as their Superintendent and High School Principal. Luke has a Masters of Education in Educational Leadership from North Dakota State University and a Bachelor of Science of Music Education from Minot State University. Alissa Thiele is the Marketing and Recruitment Coordinator at CREA and has been with the organization for three years. Prior to moving to Bismarck, Alissa attended North Dakota State University where she majored in Mass Communication. In this article, Luke and Alissa discuss how regional education associations in North Dakota support and provide services to North Dakota schools, specifically highlighting opportunities that are provided by the Central Regional Education Association (CREA).

 

Central Regional Education Association (CREA) is the largest regional education association (REA) in North Dakota. You may not have heard of an REA before, but North Dakota has seven of them. They provide services to schools, educators, students, and communities across the state. CREA is the product of a merger that will become final on July 1st, 2019 between Missouri River Educational Cooperative based in Bismarck and Mid-Dakota Educational Cooperative based in Minot. After the merger, CREA will serve 54 public and private schools and provide programs and services for approximately 40,000 students and 3,000 educators across 17,000 square miles.  

Some people may wonder why REAs exist. Each day, the REAs work tirelessly to support schools regardless of their geographic location so that students gain every opportunity possible. Staff at CREA work diligently to support educators in every way that they can to provide opportunities for students. CREA staff know that there is no problem too big or too small and work to provide community-based solutions. They have tremendous respect for educators and the work they do every day developing young learners and work tirelessly to help equalize the playing field for small and large districts alike.

To explain how CREA's programs and services are utilized in the schools in our region, we'd like to take you on a journey with a student named Josh.

Josh is a 4th grade student in a North Dakota public school. Every week day on their way to work, Josh’s parents drop him off at a before school CREA program called the Extended School Program. While he’s there, Josh dives into hands-on, project-based educational activities and games with other students who arrive before the school day. Once the school day begins, Josh’s teacher, Mr. Anderson, discusses how to identify the main character in a story. The class used paintings to show who the main character is and what their characteristics are. Mr. Anderson learned the method of using arts to enhance his lessons from a Turnaround Arts: ND Picturing Writing class he took that CREA co-hosted with the support of the ND Council of the Arts.

Mr. Anderson also has noticed that Josh has been excelling in math. To keep him from getting bored, he advances some of Josh’s work through the interventions built within his school’s Multi-Tiered System of Support (NDMTSS). NDMTSS is a framework to provide all students with the best opportunities to succeed academically and behaviorally in school.NDMTSS focuses on providing high-quality instruction and interventions matched to student need, monitoring progress frequently to make decisions about changes in instruction or goals. Josh gets to work with students a grade above his during math ever since their school learned about and implemented NDMTSS. CREA is working with Josh’s school to develop an MTSS system that helps identify not only struggling students, but students who are excelling. While Josh was advanced in his math skills, his little sister, Lauren, struggles to keep up in reading. Lauren partakes in her school’s Reading Corps program where she receives extra help from a trained tutor for 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Lauren doesn’t know this, but CREA provides Reading Corps services to students in 13 schools during this school year.

Just like math is easier for Josh to learn, he has no problems with making friends either. He met a fellow classmate, Maria, after she moved from a different country. His school isn’t big enough to hire a specialist so they contract with CREA to provide an English Learner specialist to help her effectively learn the English Language while preserving her culture and heritage. Josh and Maria love to sit with each other and talk while they enjoy their lunch.

Since the food service staff at Josh’s school have recently taken a series of culinary skills trainings from CREA, the staff started preparing delicious, new healthy school lunches that the students really enjoy. However, no matter how healthy the school lunches are, Josh continues to be aware and worries about his Diabetes numbers. He frequently runs down to the office to check them with the ND e-Nurse that the school provides through CREA. Josh’s parents really appreciate getting  frequent updates and check-ins on his health while at school.

After lunch and recess, Josh’s class listens to the school counselor talk about all the different careers. Due to a shortage of Kindergarten-12th grade counselors in ND, Josh’s school has had trouble hiring a counselor. Similar to working with the Language Specialist, Josh gets to learn from one of the CREA counselors, who also helps small groups and individual students with topics such as bullying, academic support, and social emotional development.

As mentioned earlier, while Josh has an easy time making and keeping friends, some of his classmates have a harder time working and playing with others. Instead of putting students in the hallway, the school has begun teaching all students about five sets of skills that help them recognize and manage their emotions and understand how to interact with others depending on their attitude. They also are working hard to help students make responsible decisions and solve problems by themselves and with others. The principal at Josh’s school asked CREA to help the staff at the school to understand how best to support the social and emotional aspects of learning of the students. Staff at Josh’s school want to make sure that students could find success in their academics and their friendships, while being responsible and accountable for their actions.

Josh’s day ends with a bus ride home. His bus driver, Clint, greets him with a smile and a high five as Josh is getting on board. Josh looks around at his fellow bus mates who are all seated in their assigned spots. Clint, having attended a training for bus drivers with CREA staff, reminds all of the students about expectations for the bus and lets them know he’s ready for a great ride home.

Since so much of school is about learning how to learn and figuring out what a student wants to be when they grow up, Josh hears from his older sister, Lorie, quite a bit when he gets home. She’s currently working on getting her pilots license and is taking an online Aviation course that is available through a partnership between CREA and Missouri River Area Career and Technical Center. She has figured out that she wants to be a pilot for her career.

Every day it is hoped that students like Josh are exposed to opportunities that didn’t exist before as they prepare for careers and jobs that haven’t even been invented yet. And every day a CREA staff member is asking, “How can I make things better for the students in our schools?” CREA staff can’t thank educators, school staff, and administration enough for their commitment to facilitating the learning process with students day in and day out.

CREA is continualy adding new programs and services as needs arise in our schools. We are also working to ensure continuous improvement in our existing programs. We are funded in multiple ways, through fee-for-service, grants, contracts, and school membership; we are able to provide a vast array of the services mentioned above. We have the great pleasure of having a partner in the CREA Foundation who works diligently to raise funds for our students to have increased opportunities. They assist us with grant-writing, which is a large portion of how we pay for our work to happen. However, sometimes we need extra assistance and they seek funders who are interested in helping with a specific program, like the Equine Therapy, Helping English Language Proficiency, School Counseling, Native American Culture and Language, and Arts-Based Education programs. Many of our programs look to find volunteers to assist us with students; including the Missouri River Area Career and Technical Center, Reading Corps, Poverty Simulations, and Extended School Programs.

CREA exists to make educators’ jobs a little easier. If you’d like to find out more about us or how you can help, please visit our website, stop by our office, or schedule a time to see one of our programs in action!

While CREA’s new website is still in development, more information can be obtained at www.creand.org which will redirect you to our existing websites. Or feel free to contact us at 701.751.4041.

More discussion

Luke Schaefer and Alissa Thiele: Coming Together to Help Students
April 2019

Jen Walla: Prairie Roots Community Fund
February 2019

Lindsey Leker: Creating Community with the use of Technology and Youth Leadership
January 2019

Megan Laudenschlager: Strengthen ND - Supporting and Accelerating Community Development in Rural North Dakota
December 2018

Jodi Bruns: NDSU Extension Takes Creative Approach to Enhancing Communities and Improving Leaders
September 2018

Kevin Iverson: The 2020 Census
August 2018

Josh Askvig: Building Communities for All
June 2018

Jessica Nelson: CHARISM -- Building a Stronger, Better Neighborhood Since 1994
April 2018

Katherine Roth: The Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center – A Newcomer to the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem of South Central North Dakota
March 2018

5 Years of North Dakota Compass!
February 2018

Alexandre Cyusa: Folkways -- Building a vibrant community one memorable experience at a time
December 2017

AIPHRC: Engaging and Partnering with Tribes: American Indian Public Health Resource Center Improving Public Health
November 2017

Josh Hoper: Through scientific eyes: Building homes and hope with Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity
October 2017

Diane Solinger: Jeremiah Program ignites hopeful journey for single mothers, creates better future for the next generation
September 2017

Kelly Sassi & Denise Lajimodiere: Turtle Mountain Teen Art and Writing Workshop: Enacting Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Pedagogy in a Summer Program for Native American Youth
August 2017

Kristi Huber: Do you know the Return on Investment on your charitable giving?
May 2017

Jesseca White: Disrupting the Revolving Door: A look at alternative justice in Fargo
January 2017

Leola Daul: Heart-n-Soul Community Cafe: A Place Where All Are Welcome to Enjoy a Local, Healthy, and Delicious Meal no Matter their Ability to Pay
October 2016

Cass Clay Food Systems Advisory Commission: A Multijurisdictional Food Policy Council
August 2016

5 Ways to Join the Compass Community
May 2016

Inform, Improve, Inspire: North Dakota's First Ever Demographics Conference
March 2016

Donene Feist: Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs in North Dakota
January 2016

ND Head Start: Vibrant Economy Leads to Workforce Shortages - Head Start Programs Statewide Are Feeling the Impact
December 2015

Lynette Schaff: Bullying- Just a Schoolyard Problem? Think Again!
November 2015

Jim Deal: Changes to Come
October 2015

Janis Cheney: AARP- Discover Your Possibilities
September 2015

John Trombley: Competition is Tough; Why Make it Tougher?
August 2015

Nick Ybarra: Keeping the Trail
July 2015

Megan Laudenschlager: Engaging Millennials
June 2015

Kim Bushaw: Brain Development
May 2015

2015 Legislative District Profiles
April 2015

ND Compass Points
March 2015

Heidi Demars: Growing a Food Cooperative from the Ground Up
February 2015

Helen Danielson: National Mentoring Month
January 2015

Sharz Miar: Giving the Gift of Hope for the Holidays
December 2014

Cheryl Ann Kary (Hunkuotawin): Talking Indian: A L/N/Dakota Model of Oratory
November 2014

North Dakota Legislative District Profiles
October 2014

Edwin Erickson Jr.: Soybeans- Growing an Important Commodity for North Dakota
September 2014

Jennifer Braun: A Look at Early Childhood Education in Western North Dakota
August 2014

Jordyn Wallenborn: Ticks Bite: Protect Yourself Against Lyme Disease
July 2014

Lorraine Shepherd-Davis: Filling a Need in the Community
June 2014

Howard Barlow: Helping Build a Better Community
May 2014

Denise Hellekson: Using Mindfulness to Calm Your Busy Mind
April 2014

Melissa Sobolik: End hunger through community partnerships
March 2014

Jacob Sowers: Places and their story: More than just a spot on the map?
February 2014

Neil Scharpe: "Protecting North Dakota's Quality of Life"
January 2014

Donald Warne: "American Indian Health Disparities in North Dakota"
November 2013

Kay Schwarzwalter: "Community building through community gardens"
October 2013

Jasper Schneider: "Rural Development in North Dakota"
August 2013

Dean Bangsund: "Economic contribution of the petroleum industry in North Dakota"
July 2013

Jane Strommen: "Addressing the education and support needs of older North Dakotans and their family members"
June 2013

Randi Roth: "In Support of North Dakota Communities"
March 2013

Richard Rathge: "Vision of North Dakota Compass"
February 2013

Paul Mattessich: "What's the real poverty rate?"
January 2013

North Dakota Compass

Center for Social Research
North Dakota State University

Compass created by:
Wilder Research

© 2019. All rights reserved.