5 things to know today: Fisk departure, MSUM president, Spectator conduct, Computer class, Humanities Medal – InForum

1. Trail of firings, meetings, emails detail events preceding West Fargo administrator’s abrupt departure

When City Administrator Tina Fisk left her resignation letter on the desk of Mayor Bernie Dardis the morning of Wednesday, March 15, for some, the resignation seemed abrupt.

Others, including elected city leaders, had voiced concerns about her performance, and one had told her he was ready to call for her termination.

Less than 10 days earlier, when Commissioner Mark Simmons requested the city reinstate annual performance reviews of all employees at the March 6 commission meeting, he said it would potentially prevent what recently happened in the finance department.

Simmons and other commissioners refused to elaborate on that comment at the time, but information obtained by The Forum indicates the firing of several finance department staff members is part of what prompted Fisk’s departure.

West Fargo Communications Director Melissa Richard said no formal complaints had been filed in the past few months against anyone in the finance department or against Fisk.

Read more from The Forum’s Wendy Reuer

2. MSUM’s next president says university must keep challenging itself: ‘We can’t become complacent’

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Tim Downs was introduced Friday, March 24, 2023, as the next president of Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Chris Flynn / The Forum

As Tim Downs took the stage at the Roland Dille Center for the Arts on Friday, March 24, he said his heart “was swelling with Dragon pride.”

Downs, the next president of Minnesota State University Moorhead, will succeed current President Anne Blackhurst starting July 1. Blackhurst has been president of MSUM since 2014 and plans to retire.

The Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system chose Downs from among five finalists, and his selection was announced Wednesday.

Downs, who’s currently the interim chief of staff at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, was greeted on the MSUM campus by staff and students at a gathering Friday. He told the crowd he will work toward a smooth transition, which he described as a “mind meld” with Blackhurst.

“Throughout the application process I felt a connection. The strong culture of MSUM is palpable, something that I felt right away, even through a Zoom interview,” Downs said.

“It’s cold outside, but how beautiful it is in the midst of winter. Very soon there will be spring and with spring comes rejuvenation, hopes and new dreams,” said Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra, who introduced Downs.

Read more from The Forum’s C.S. Hagen

3. North Dakota leaders vow no tolerance for racist taunts at sporting events, warn of deeper bigotry

Izzy Column #10 Racial Taunting photo.JPG

Rep. Jayme Davis, D-Rolette, is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

Isabelle Ballalatak / N.D. Newspaper Association

From the N.D. Newspaper Association via Forum News Service

Racist comments made at high school basketball games in Jamestown and Dickinson recently have sparked broad discussion on sports conduct and what may be a deeper race issue in North Dakota.

In a game between Jamestown High School and Bismarck High School on Jan. 31, a video captured students in the Jamestown fan section yelling the N-word and making monkey noises toward a Black player from Bismarck, as well as scalping motions toward a Native American basketball player.

On Feb. 11, Turtle Mountain High School traveled to Dickinson for a basketball game where students of color were subjected to racial taunting, with one individual mocking the Native American culture by doing a dance.

These two incidents prompted Rep. Jayme Davis, D-Rolette, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, to propose House Concurrent Resolution 3022 to the House Education Committee, to consider studying and clarifying expectations of proper spectator conduct, as well as consequences for violating those expectations.

Davis told the committee that the two incidents were not rarities.

Read more

4. North Dakota schools will now require computer science, cybersecurity classes

Notepad Pencil and Computer Laptop

Notepad Pencil and Computer Laptop

Tom Stromme / The Bismarck Tribune

A tech-minded change to North Dakota’s K-12 curriculum will oblige students to take courses in computer science and cybersecurity.

Gov. Doug Burgum signed

House Bill

1398 on Friday, March 24, creating a requirement for elementary, middle and high schools to teach computer science and cybersecurity classes. Burgum, a former tech executive, said it’s critical that school children learn how to manage technology before they enter the workforce as adults.

“Employers look for students who have the skills to take on tech challenges and cyberattacks, and complete daily tasks using technology devices,” Burgum said in a news release.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler said the bill’s passage makes North Dakota the first state in the nation to approve legislation requiring cybersecurity education. She said the new education standards are the “culmination of years of work by stakeholders from all sectors.”

Read more from Forum News Service’s Jeremy Turley

5. Biden awards medal to Concordia College grad at White House ceremony

President Joe Biden presenting Earl Lewis, a former chair of Concordia's Board of Regents, with the National Humanities Medal on March 21, 2023 in the White House.jpg

President Joe Biden presenting Earl Lewis, a former chair of Concordia’s Board of Regents, with the National Humanities Medal on March 21, 2023 in the White House.

Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

A Concordia College graduate and a former chair of the school’s Board of Regents was awarded the National Humanities Medal in a White House ceremony.

Earl Lewis, a professor at the University of Michigan and founding director of the Center for Social Solutions, was presented with the award by President Joe Biden on Tuesday, March 21.

A native of Tidewater, Virgnia, Lewis earned bachelor’s degrees in history and psychology from Concordia College and his doctorate in history from the University of Minnesota.

Lewis, along with Fay Ferguson, established Concordia’s Diversity Student Endowed Scholarship, which is awarded based on scholastic achievement and financial need.

Lewis is a professor of history and Afro-American and African studies. He is also the author of several books, and was previously president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“For writing America’s history and shaping America’s future, as a social historian and academic leader, Earl Lewis has made vital contributions to the field of Black history, educating generations of students while also being a leading voice for greater diversity in academia and our nation,” Biden said during the ceremony.

Read more from The Forum’s C.S. Hagen

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of “staff.” Often, the “staff” byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.