North Sargent: Focusing on Continual Improvement

A district of about 200 students nestled in the small town of Gwinner, North Dakota, North Sargent Public Schools prides itself in the ability of their students, staff, community and Board to all work together in making their schools a great place for kids to learn and fulfill the schools’ mission.

That mission is to “Develop Confident, Caring, Creative Builders of the Future.” And the district vision states that all students will achieve continuous improvement in both this mission and in academics.

When asked what makes them proud to represent North Sargent Public Schools as a leader, there was agreement amongst leadership that it was the willingness of everyone to work cooperatively in fulfilling these goals and to come together when needed most.

“It’s a small enough district that the community is very involved and supportive. Students and staff come together as a family in times of need,” Secondary Principal Dawn Hoeke said.

Hoeke has been the North Sargent High School Principal for three years now. A former High School English, Math, and Social Studies teacher, she was inspired and encouraged toward her current position by her Superintendent at the time. The students remain her motivating factor.

“Being able to make a difference in the lives of kids assures me that I am in the right field,” Hoeke said.

Similarly, Elementary Principal Michael Sorlie, gained the confidence to pursue his current position from his relationship with former Superintendents. But the interest had been there early on as he grew up with family in the field.

“I was interested in the career since my high school years. My grandmother taught for close to 40 years, and two of my aunts taught for over 30 years. It was something that I grew up around,” Sorlie said.

Hoeke and Sorlie work under the leadership of Superintendent Dennis Gerke. While on his first year serving as Superintendent of North Sargent, he’s had 34 years’ prior experience as an educator. He’s also served as Superintendent in Hardin, Stockett, and Geyser, MT as well as Mountain Village, AK. Like his colleagues, he’s most passionate about the students.

                “As the school Superintendent I am a public servant. My duties are to serve the students, staf  and community of Gwinner. I want to be visible and accessible at all times to address all concerns. Remember, ‘Kids Come First,’” Gerke said.

North Sargent has spent the 2018-2019 school year with this motto in mind by focusing on student achievement, curriculum building, and strengthening board policies. They improve upon these domains in many ways, but one major component has been their work through the Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS).

“We have focused on the interventions because our data showed us that some kids were still struggling and needed the extra supports that we hadn’t been providing. A handful of staff attended the workshops and received the training that we needed to accomplish this goal. Our long-term vision is to get each student to the proper grade level,” Sorlie said.

North Sargent has been making great strides in education, keeping their students’ continual improvement at center focus. As for the future, Hoeke noted that in that hopes of helping to guide their plan for next year, North Sargent School will be hosting an AdvancED Engagement Review Team on November 19-20, 2018.

“This process will assist the North Sargent school board, administration team, teachers, and staff in taking inventory of strengths and areas for improvement as we continue on the journey toward our commitment to ensure all students reach their greatest potential,” Gerke said.

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