Dakota Download Governor Burgum's Weekly Update - August 20, 2023

Burgum highlights Building Blocks for Success at seventh annual Summit on Innovative Education

Recipients named for #InnovativeND Awards

Gov. Doug Burgum kicked off the seventh annual Governor’s Summit on Innovative Education at Cheney Middle School in West Fargo on Tuesday, highlighting how North Dakota is focusing on the Building Blocks for Success to improve outcomes for students.

Burgum explained how the state is investing in the Building Blocks for Success, five key strategic themes identified by the North Dakota PK-12 Education Steering Committee: 1) quality early childhood experiences; 2) support for safe and healthy behaviors; 3) career awareness, exploration and development; 4) quality education personnel; and 5) quality student-centered instruction in driving positive outcomes for students, educators, communities and the state.

The governor also highlighted legislation and policies approved since 2017 to provide school districts with flexibility to enhance student-centered, personalized learning, including innovation waivers; a choice-ready framework to prepare students for college, career or the military; Learn Everywhere, which allows graduation credits to be fulfilled through internships, apprenticeships, extracurriculars, clubs and other educational opportunities; and Graduation Pathway, which made North Dakota the first state in the nation with legislation that allows competency-based education built on student proficiency and mastery of standards to count toward a high school diploma.

“No other states have offered this menu of opportunity up to their K-12 system. What are we going to do with it?” Burgum said in his remarks, encouraging more districts to take advantage of the tools available. “Thanks for being involved in education. It’s so important what you’re doing, and that’s why we’re so passionate about trying to make sure that we can make a difference for all (students).”

Nearly 500 individuals registered to attend the free one-day summit in person and an additional roughly 150 registered for the virtual option. Keynote speakers were Matt Kirchner, an international speaker, author, business leader, host of the weekly TechEd Podcast and president of ATS/LAB Midwest, a leading distributor of world-class curriculum, eLearning and training equipment, and Nicholas Carlisle, CEO of Power of Zero, a global initiative to address cyberbullying, and creator of the award-winning No Bully program for schools.

The governor also announced recipients of the #InnovativeND Awards throughout the day. The categories and recipients are:

  • Frontline Innovation – Mendi Blake, special education teacher in West Fargo Public Schools, who has pioneered the development of the ID program at West Fargo High School, empowering students with special needs to believe in themselves and their abilities while building life skills.
  • Collaborative Culture – Michelle Candy, teacher at Two Rivers Education Center, North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, who led the effort to make the Missouri River Correctional Center a pilot site for the STAR (Student Achievement in Reading) national reading initiative aimed at training instructors in evidence-based reading practices to be used with intermediate-level adult learners.
  • System Transformation – Tom Klapp, Beth Head and Luke Bush, Northern Cass School District, for their efforts to develop “studios,” an inclusive partnership between educators, learners and the community to provide a six-week learning experience where students connect with professionals to solve real problems in their community.
  • Student Leadership – Aidan Pelton, who will be a junior this fall at Watford City High School and serves as a mentor in the Little Buddy Program, on the Vision West mental health subcommittee, and as chair of the ambassador program, having led a cultural food fair in March that celebrated the 23 countries represented in Watford City.
  • Pathways Innovation – Denise Jonas, director of the Cass County Career and Technical Education Center, who has worked to ensure students have the opportunity to take CTE courses not offered by their schools and has advocated for career advisors at each school to help students find their future careers.
Gov. Burgum presents the Frontline Innovation Award to West Fargo Public Schools special education teacher Mendi Blake on Tuesday at Cheney Middle School in West Fargo.

Burgum accepts resignation of Health and Human Services Commissioner Chris Jones, thanks him for service

Deputy Commissioner Sara Stolt appointed interim commissioner

Gov. Burgum on Wednesday announced the resignation of North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Commissioner Chris Jones, thanking him for his six years of service to the citizens of North Dakota. Jones’ last day will be Sept. 15.

Jones has served North Dakota since March 2017 after Burgum appointed him as executive director of the Department of Human Services. Jones has served as HHS commissioner since September 2022, following the integration of the departments of Health and Human Services.

Jones resigned his role to pursue a position as vice president and senior fellow at The Cicero Institute, a nonpartisan public policy organization, where he will collaborate with legislative members across states to promote innovative health care reform policy.

"We are deeply grateful for Chris’ exceptional leadership and significant contributions to the health and well-being of North Dakota citizens,” Burgum said. “Under his leadership, Health and Human Services has delivered quality, efficient and effective programs and services and improved the lives of North Dakotans. He and his team increased access to behavioral health care and addiction services, helped children ages zero to 5 realize their potential through quality early childhood experiences, supported the state’s workforce needs by leading an effort to improve access to quality, affordable child care, and reduced costs for long-term care and Medicaid. We wish him all the best in his next chapter.”

Leading the successful integration of Health and Human Services, Jones set the foundation to continue to improve services, help North Dakota become the healthiest state in the nation and ensure the future health and well-being needs of all North Dakotans are met.

“I am grateful and honored to have served North Dakotans during my time at HHS, and I’ve been humbled to work alongside a dedicated team committed to improving the health and well-being of the people we serve,” Jones said.

Burgum has appointed HHS Deputy Commissioner Sara Stolt to serve as interim commissioner effective Sept. 16.

Dept. of Trust Lands sets record in 2023 with $9.7M in unclaimed property returned to rightful owners

Record also set for amount of unclaimed property submitted by businesses

The Unclaimed Property Division of the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands returned a record $9.7 million of unclaimed property to its rightful owners during the fiscal year that ended June 30, an increase of $3 million over the previous fiscal year.

The amount of unclaimed property submitted by businesses to the Unclaimed Property Division also hit a record high of $20.3 million in fiscal year 2022-23, a $4.6 million increase over 2021-22.

Nearly 33 million people in the United States – 1 in every 10 – has what the industry calls unclaimed property: financial accounts or items of value in which the owner has not initiated any activity for a number of years. When that happens and the company can’t locate the owner, the money or properties are submitted to the state. Common examples include unpaid life insurance benefits, forgotten bank accounts and uncashed checks.

“States are required to return unclaimed property to its owner no matter how long it takes,” said Joseph Heringer, North Dakota’s Unclaimed Property Administrator.

“North Dakota and other states have been working to raise awareness about unclaimed property, including launching the first National Unclaimed Property Day on Feb. 1, 2021, so it’s rewarding to see that we were able to return a record amount of unclaimed property to its rightful owners this past fiscal year,” Heringer said. “We encourage everyone to search their name for free at unclaimedproperty.nd.gov to determine if they have property waiting to be claimed.”

While unclaimed, property held by the Unclaimed Property Division is invested as part of the Common Schools Trust Fund and generates revenue to support public K-12 education in North Dakota. The Common Schools Trust Fund is currently valued at over $6 billion and has distributed more than $1.8 billion to K-12 education over the last decade, reducing the burden on local property taxpayers and the state’s general fund.

The North Dakota Board of University and School Lands (Land Board) oversees the Department of Trust Lands, which manages North Dakota’s unclaimed property program and state-owned mineral and surface rights that benefit North Dakota public education. The five-member Land Board consists of Gov. Doug Burgum as chair, State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler, State Treasurer Thomas Beadle, Secretary of State Michael Howe and Attorney General Drew Wrigley.

A Year to Volunteer gives Icelandic State Park a helping hand

Icelandic State Park near Cavalier, North Dakota is hosting A Year to Volunteer, an RV-centric organization that brings volunteers from across the country to improve parks through various hands-on projects.

“The work done by the A Year to Volunteer group is so greatly appreciated by our entire team, but more importantly by the public who enjoys stepping back in history and exploring the life of our early settlers in northeast North Dakota,” said ND Parks and Recreation Director Cody Schulz. “This group is genuinely changing the world, one thoughtful act at a time, and we believe it will inspire the next generation toward a spirit of volunteerism, too.”

The crew of 25 volunteers began serving the state park Aug. 6. They have replaced siding and windows on the Akra Community Hall and applied a fresh coat of stain on the Pioneer Heritage Center. By the time they depart on Aug. 18, they will also have completed some landscaping and trail maintenance.

“It’s very inspiring to see them come together from all over the country, work so well together and get so much done in a short time,” said Icelandic State Park Manager Mike Duerre. “It can often take a number of years for us to have the funding to tackle projects of this size, but with all these people cutting the labor bill out of the equation, it relieves a lot of pressure from our maintenance budget.”

After the more than 1,000 volunteer hours at Icelandic State park, the total A Year to Volunteer team of 500 members will surpass 45,000 volunteers hours since the organization began in February 2020. A Year to Volunteer coordinators Phil and Shar Roos say they love to welcome new volunteers as they move across the country.

“We’re always looking for more people and everyone in our group says they’re totally coming back to North Dakota,” said Shar Roos. “The area is beautiful, the people are so nice; there’s nothing not to love about North Dakota.”

“People need to set their sights further north,” said Phil Roos. “You have amazing sights to see here. The people and the park are fantastic.”

Icelandic State Park is the site of the group’s 36th project in its 23rd state. The organization’s volunteers range from age 3 to 82, but the typical volunteers are retirees between the ages of 55-65.

While the team is primarily RV enthusiasts who enjoy traveling the country, the Roos’ encourage anyone in the area, or those just passing through, to join their movement.

North Dakota Parks and Recreation welcomes local and regional volunteer groups to serve state parks with various maintenance and building projects to help meet its mission to enrich generations through experiences that connect people and places.

For more information on volunteering, contact ayeartovolunteer@gmail.com or call (602) 642-4647.

Nominate your community for the 2023 Governor's Main Street Awards

The Governor's Main Street Awards recognize North Dakota communities that have demonstrated excellence in the principles of the Main Street Initiative.

This year's awards are open to all communities, regardless of size or location. Nominations are due by Sept. 15, 2023.

To be eligible, your community must have implemented at least one Main Street Initiative project in the past year. Award categories are as follows:

  • Healthy, Vibrant Community
  • Smart, Efficient Infrastructure
  • 21st Century Workforce
  • Main Street Excellence
  • Economic Diversification
  • Future Leaders Empowerment

Winners will be announced at the 2023 Main Street ND Summit in Watford City this October.

Nominate, Register and Learn more at the link below.

Registration is OPEN!

The 2023 North Dakota Main Street ND Summit is your opportunity to learn from experts and network with other community leaders.

The theme this year is Innovative Workforce Solutions. The summit will feature nationally renowned keynote speakers and hands-on workshops that will provide you with the tools to attract and retain the next generation of North Dakota’s workforce.

Join us Oct. 24-25 in Watford City!