Supt. Ness: Tragedy

I didn’t sleep well last week thinking about the most recent tragedy affecting our community and schools. I knew both Ryan and Sarah. Ryan was a member of the Noon Kiwanis where I am also a member.  I feel terribly sad for all involved and my heart breaks for Cheshire children – but, I know our teachers and others will support them well.

Whenever I hear of a suicide, it triggers memories of my brother who also died from suicide a few years ago.  At that time, I was told that suicide is the most selfish act one can commit.  I do not agree because I now know my brother was suffering from depression, anxiety, paranoia, and effects from medication – in other words, a mental illness. How can he be selfish, when he was too sick to think about his actions?

As I was visiting with staff, many agreed with me that since I started teaching in 1979, the biggest difference in education is mental illnesses.  So what are we doing about it? As part of Otter Tail County Collaborative, our District has been working to be part of the solution. Trauma Sensitive school trainings, the REACH program for students, and engaging students who are in poverty…are all types of trainings that we will be researching for our students and staff.

I ask myself, who am I to judge the “why” when something horrible occurs?  I try to not go down that path. Instead, I think if there is ever a time for kindness, caring and forgiveness, now is the time.  

Weather Related Announcements

The safety of students is one of our greatest concerns. Therefore, there are times when circumstances make it necessary to close school, start school late or dismiss school early. Before making weather-related decisions, school officials are in contact with Ottertail Coaches, area school districts and the National Weather Service.

If school is in session and an approaching storm makes it necessary to close early, it takes about two hours to activate all busses and load students. Consequently, a decision to close must be made at least two hours before the schools actually close. Decision-making regarding the weather is not an exact science. When the weather is questionable – like it was on Monday, December 4 – the District will error on the side of caution.

At times, parents may want to pick up their children early and are encouraged to do so by notifying the child’s building secretary of their decision. If school is in session on a day you, as a parent, feel it is too cold or too stormy, you should treat that similar to deciding whether to send your child to school if he or she is ill. Your decision to not send your child to school due to weather will be handled as an excused absence, just as it would for illness, provided that weather-related absences do not become excessive.

School district officials are also aware of the impact a change in the school day has on families, particularly when childcare is involved or there is no one at home during school hours. One way to help with this situation is to make sure you have made a storm home arrangement for your child or children and inform your school.

The Fergus Falls Public Schools announce weather related message in many ways – weather announcements will be recorded on the school district’s automated phone system (218-988-0544) and on the district’s web site:; Facebook, Twitter, Remind, and our new messaging system for parents – SchoolMessenger. Information to sign up for these alerts are found on the website.

Weather-related announcements for the Fergus Falls School District will also be broadcasted on the radio and television stations as follows: Leighton Broadcasting – Lakes Radio in Fergus Falls:  KJJK-AM (1020), KJJK-FM (96.5), KBRF-AM (1250), KZCR-FM (Z-103.3) and KPRW-FM (99.5). The Radio Fargo/Moorhead: KFGO-AM (790), BIG 98.7, 107.9; The Fox, BOB 95FM. Television Stations: Fargo – KXJB (4), WDAY (6), KVLY (11) and Alexandria – KSAX (5); KMSP (9); KSTP TV, KVRR,  and  WCCO TV and radio.