Story by Deb Seminary, contributing writer
The Fargo Public School District (FPSD) is using ESSER funds to support an initiative that will allow more teachers to become endorsed in Special Education. The ‘All for One, One for All’ program provides opportunities for eligible FPSD educators to receive additional compensation by participating in additional professional development and/or receiving an additional endorsement on their teaching license.
“The ESSER funds were provided to improve outcomes for students,” said Dr. Rupak Gandhi, superintendent of Fargo Public Schools. “The All for One program will enhance instruction for students who are not benefiting from our system and help FPSD address the critical shortage of Special Education teachers. We wanted to create an opportunity for more of our staff to take responsibility for teaching Special Education and figure out a way to compensate Special Education teachers for the extra work they do. The more staff members that get qualified to teach Special Education, the more flexible we can be down the road.”
FPSD, like most districts across the state, has had to become extra resourceful because of the serious lack of Special Education teachers.
By signing up and obtaining either a Special Education or English Language (EL) Endorsement, staff members will receive a one-time payment of $6,000 per endorsement for a total endorsement compensation of $12,000. Almost 180 staff have signed up to take the endorsement this summer.
The All for One program is available to any FPS employee who holds an eligible teaching license and is in a position that requires a teaching license, including administrators. Additionally, staff has the opportunity to participate in five days of professional development focused on improving instruction, compensated at their daily rate of pay.
Gandhi pointed out that it is not their intent to place teachers who receive these endorsements directly into Special Education or EL.
“The goal at the end of the day is, how can we create a structure our administration can lean on so our best educators are incentivized to work with our neediest students,” he said. “General Education teachers may be asked to step outside of their comfort zone and teach Special Education for a year, or we might ask veteran teachers to mentor younger Special Education teachers. I believe all students will benefit and instruction will improve across the district.”
Gandhi also pointed out that teachers should always be growing to meet the needs of kids. He said that having more of a skill set and this knowledge base is going to help teachers in their profession. Mary McCarvel-O’Connor, Special Education Director, North Dakota Department of Public Instruction agrees.
“Having this expertise behind you is always going to be beneficial,” she said.
“We believe this program can help all educators by providing them with an additional set of tools to meet the needs of all learners,” said Gandhi. “I also think that giving more teachers the capacity to recognize what a disability is and how to provide instruction for all students may hopefully reduce the over-identification of Special Education students because you will have additional General Education teachers that are more successful at seeing the students that have different needs. Then you can allocate resources to the students that need it the most.”
The All for One, One for All program is off to a great start. If even more staff members participate in 2023, students across the district will reap the benefits.