Students shine in district’s celebration of schools and dedication
April 25, 2018
The strains of “Promise of Tomorrow” faded and orange balloons filled the stage as Moorhead Area Public Schools’ celebration of schools and dedication concluded.
The April 21 celebration included open houses at the six new or newly renovated K-8 schools followed by the celebration and dedication in the just-opened Horizon Middle School Performing Arts Center.
Hundreds of students, parents, employees and community members filled the new auditorium for music and theatrical performances by students of all ages and messages from school district and community representatives. Moorhead High School Apollo Strings under the direction of Jon Larson provided pre-program music.
Dr. Lynne Kovash, superintendent of Moorhead Area Public Schools from 2008 until her retirement in November 2017, welcomed guests, families and community members to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the district’s facilities master plan.
The new Dorothy Dodds Elementary School, the new Horizon Middle School West Campus for grades 5-6, and the three newly renovated elementary schools opened Sept. 5 for the 2017-18 school year. Construction continued at Horizon West with the north academic wing completed at the end of 2017. The Horizon performing arts center was completed days prior to the celebration.
“We are excited to share with you the dreams and designs of our staff and community,” Kovash said. “These are wonderful facilities, but the work that goes on inside these buildings is what is most important to celebrate.”
Kovash introduced Brandon Luank, the next superintendent of Moorhead Area Public Schools. Lunak said he is humbled to be selected as the new superintendent and is looking forward to working with the community on the next phase of the facilities master plan.
The Moorhead Fire Department Honor Guard presented the colors for the Pledge of Allegiance, which was led by several Moorhead students. Amid the red, white and blue lighting in the new auditorium, the Horizon East Honor Band under the direction of Dan Christenson and Tim Pipinich played the national anthem. As the lights changed from patriotic colors to orange, the band played the school song to fire up the crowd of Spud supporters.
On behalf of Governor Mark Dayton and herself, Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius thanked the community for its support of the far-reaching plan that was implemented to provide K-8 facilities. “Thank you for your investment in public education,” she said.
Horizon Middle School theater students shared selections from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” and a fourth-grade choir ensemble with representatives from the four elementary schools performed “Possibilities.”
Mayor Del Rae Williams, also a parent of two Spud graduates, spoke with pride about the community and bragging about the schools. Williams said that both prior to becoming mayor and while serving as mayor she has had the opportunity to be part of strategic planning for the district.
“We don’t start with the structure,” Williams said. “We start with the kids and what they need and what makes that experience.”
Kovash acknowledged the work of many staff and community members for their efforts in providing facilities where learners will thrive.
“These schools are designed to allow our students to collaborate, to communicate with each other, to think critically and to be creative,” Kovash said. “They will also reinforce basic skills in reading, mathematics, science, arts and social studies.”
A two-minute video, accompanied by the Horizon Honor Orchestra, highlighted Moorhead Schools history, including those past leaders for whom the four elementary schools are named: Ellen Hopkins, Robert Asp, S.G. Reinertsen and Dorothy Dodds.
Lori Rippentrop, a niece of Dorothy Dodds, spoke about her aunt, who they called Dorothy Ann.
“I have come to realize that Dorothy Ann really got kids,” Rippentrop said. “She knew, deep down inside, how kids think and how they learn. That’s what made her such a special kindergarten teacher, an excellent college educator, and a valuable asset to community and statewide committees.”
In between knock-knock jokes, Rippentrop also thanked the naming task force and School Board for recommending and approving the name of Dorothy Dodds Elementary School.
“But most of all, thank you to the voters of the Moorhead School District for passing that bond referendum in 2015 that allowed this and the other schools to be built and renovated,” Rippentrop said. “With this vote you all carried on the legacy that Dorothy began. You showed, with your hard-earned tax dollars, that the children of the greater Moorhead community are important and deserve high quality, safe and forward-thinking schools.”
Following the dedication of the schools by School Board members Scott Steffes, Bill Tomhave, Mark Altenburg, Matt Valan and Cassidy Bjorklund, the Horizon Honor Choir and Horizon Honor Orchestra, under the direction of Ashley Scherbenske, Brian Cole and Doug Neill, performed René Clausen’s “Promise of Tomorrow.” Lunak ended the program by declaring it a great day to be a Spud.
Photo: With the Horizon Honor Choir and Honor Orchestra behind them, members of the Moorhead School Board dedicate the district’s new and renovated K-8 schools, including the Horizon Performing Arts Center. Credit: Rick Westra