Challenges are Opportunities

Superintendent Dr. Marcus Lewton with staff

By: Dr. Marcus Lewton, DPS Superintendent

The most innovative and effective ideas have a seed and root that germinated out of a challenge. When I reflect on all the greatness that is occurring at Dickinson Public Schools it is easy to identify some of the challenges that born the solution. Like the tree that grows up to greatness, but has roots in cracks of rocks, DPS has found so much greatness this year.

When the bond for a new high school failed a few years ago, the former superintendent met with members of the community to develop some temporary fixes. Out of those discussions we have developed a partnership with DSU. Approximately 150 credits will be gained this year by DHS students taking courses at DSU.

Those same discussions gave birth to a community task force that developed the idea of a new Career and Technical Education Center, which can now be found in the old Haliburton complex. Next fall, students from the region will start attending courses that meet the workforce demands of Southwest North Dakota. This was all possible without adding a property tax levy to our community.

A need for more Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in our elementary schools gave birth to a partnership with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, Devon Energy, Marathon Oil, Flogistix, NextEra Energy, and the DPS Foundation. These partnerships allowed the 100% funding of a new STEM lab in every elementary school, including our Early Childhood Program.

A decrease in oil prices and the COVID pandemic caused a decline in enrollment and a budget deficit in 20-21 and 21-22. This created a committee that helped turn the deficit around in one year. Now we have gained approximately 200 students from 20-21 and have been able to balance our budget.

A need for skilled labor in our region has created amazing school-to-work and apprenticeship programs. As of today, we have over 150 students who are receiving some type of work-based learning experience. Out of that number 54 are currently obtaining credit and earning a wage from the employee. Our students are gaining experience in the real world from Dental Assistant and Veterinary Tech to Construction and Architectural Drafting and everything in between. Our kids are making a difference in the community.

Although we have had the "opportunity" to be innovative to meet our community's needs, we continue to have facility needs. Increasing enrollment, aging facilities, and security updates are challenges that need to be addressed. Our plan to address these challenges must reflect the priorities of our community. In the next few weeks, you will receive a survey regarding some of our facility needs at DPS. Please take the survey to help us better understand how you, the public, would like us to move forward.

As the school year concludes, we continue to witness our staff and students excel. I can't wait to share how the seeds and roots germinating from our current challenges develop and grow for the betterment of our district family and community.