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Blackduck Minnesota History

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Contributed by the late Lorena Gilstad, Gene Kjellberg, Robert Doetsch and Tom Mathews

The Blackduck Public School was organized in the Roe House on First Street in 1901. Previous to this the children of homesteaders attended school in one-room log houses.

The First Presbyterian Church was completed in 1901 and school was held there beginning in December of that year. Miss Mary Ross, a graduate of St. Paul Normal School, was the first teacher with forty students enrolled.

By September of 1902, a new school, a two story building, had to be built to accommodate the growing school enrollment, as one hundred sixteen pupils had been enrolled that year. J.C. McGhee was hired as principal, Miss Gertrude Carleton as primary teacher and Miss Chesborough for the intermediate grades. The school was named the George Washington School. Still the school was too small. Two grades went to school in the Rolfe Building where the laundromat is now located.

Agitation for a brick building in 1908 resulted in a building being built and moved into in 1909.

The first class to graduate from Washington School was in 1908. There had been four in the class to begin with, but two of them moved away. The two graduates were Nina Leek and Josephine Hermanson.

Early days of Drivers' Training at Blackduck Minnesota High School
Early days of Drivers' Training at BHS

Several additions have been made to the buildings since 1902. The first was in 1938 when a new gym and study hall were added. Some of the additions were very much a necessity since the school district was being consolidated with many of the smaller schools into Independent School District Number 3. On November 9, 1954, a dedication was observed with a new, modern addition to the school. There were two wings, one housing the vocational department, the other several were additional elementary classrooms. In 1957 there was another addition. In 1969 a new addition was built housing a new gymnasium, a superintendent's office, boys' and girls' locker rooms and a new band room. In 1975 a wrestling room was built.

Between 1970 and 1988, a shop, a home economics area, an elementary addition, a new science and library addition were added to the school without encumbering the public with a bond issue.

A large new building project was initiated in the early 1990s. A bond issue was passed to build a new facility and remodel other areas. The oldest part of the complex which was built in 1908 was demolished during the project.

Blackduck High School in 2000
Blackduck High School in 2000

Blackduck High School Military Monument
Blackduck High School Military Monument

Records that were reviewed indicated that Melvin "Pat" Gilstad served the district for the most consecutive number of years. Pat served from 1970 until 1997. During that time he was chairman of the board for 14 years and clerk for 11 years.

Records show the following superintendents served the district since the 1940s:

Early 1940s George Eddy
1946-1955 William Brosvick
1955-1960 Ralph Norland
1960-1963 Gary Olson
1963-1970 Charles Matthew
1970-1989 Gene Kjellberg
1989-1992 Barbra Zakrajsek
1992-1997 Tom Hoppe
1997-2000 Keith Togstad
2000-present Thomas Mathews

Gene Kjellberg served the most consecutive years as superintendent serving 19 years. Beginning with the 2000 to 2001 school year the superintendent is Tom Mathews. Tom has taught in the Blackduck School for seven years, served as assistant principal for five years, and as high school principal for twenty years.

There have been many members of the public who have served the district as school board members. Present board members are Bob Stroeing, Dean Baggenstoss, Dale Compton, Murl Nord, Chris Johnson, and Sam Christensen (not pictured), with Superintendent Tom Mathews

Enrichment and improvement of the curriculums of both the grades and the high school is a continuing policy of Blackduck school.

Blackduck Elementary School's accentuation is in the areas of academics, social, and emotional growth of all children. A wide range of activities implemented and integrated throughout the curriculum is accomplishing this. The reading program is based on the whole language process. We are adding a phonics component in the lower grades to increase understanding of syllabication. Accelerated Reader has been implemented and is a new computer generated diagnostic tool to help children and teachers identify individual skill levels. The math curriculum is based on a hands on approach with a sequential explanation, identifying for the kids the importance of each mathematical step. Many classes begin with an activity called D. O. L., which is daily oral language. This gives each student a chance to practice by correcting incorrect grammatical sentences given by the teacher. Some are working on daily diaries as a practice tool for everyday writing skills. There is a testing program, given annually to each student to identify positive progress and areas of concern. Students can receive extra help during the school day, if scores show the need. The school offers after school tutoring also, if there is a need. There is a a big interest in technology. We have recently purchased new computers for our lab. Children work in the lab two times a week. Plus each teacher has a computer available in his or her room on which children may work. We do a large amount of hands-on science, working in the areas of observation, identification, description, and experimentation. In social studies we study the Ancient World Cultures, Today's Cultures, small religions, countries, and continents. The children participate in scheduled music, physical education, and library classes too. We have instituted a number of programs that support social and emotional growth.

The state has given schools the Graduation Standards. We are implementing them into our curriculum. The students are tested to see where they need support. The children are given the MCA (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment) tests at the 3rd and 5th grade levels. In 3rd grade, students take math and reading assessments only. In 5th grade, they are assessed in math, reading, and writing.

Educational Experiences Connected to Real Life: Students Witness Teacher Become a U.S. Citizen! One of the most unusual experiences the students in "Kids Quest" had was traveling to Fergus Falls, Minnesota to witness Abeeda Asfoor, formerly a citizen of Trinidad, become a citizen of the U.S.

In preparation for this day, Mrs. Asfoor shared and taught the students some of the information that she had to study about the history, the Constitution, and important dates and events about the United States.

Kids Quest was a multi-age, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classroom that was in place in the Blackduck School from 1994-1998. The instructors were Donna Dremmel, Abeeda Asfoor, Joe Sheppard, and Avonel Kjellberg. One of their objectives was to expose their students to educational experiences that were connected to real life, and so the trip to Fergus Falls.

On April 26th, 1996, 75 students with their teachers squeezed onto a bus for a 10:00 a.m. appointment at the Federal Court Room in Fergus Falls. As they rushed up the stairs, they were met by a camera crew who wanted to record this unusual event for the evening news, where a teacher brought 75 students with her to witness her becoming a citizen of the United States! The courtroom was crowded with about 60 immigrants from many different countries around the world and their witnesses. To accommodate our large group, an Oriental rug was placed on the floor to seat the students.

The ceremony was an especially moving one, when the judge asked Mrs. Asfoor to come forward and lead the group in saying "The Pledge of Allegiance" after each of the new citizens was presented with a certificate and a U.S. flag. The students knew that they were witnessing a very special event and they felt privileged to be a part of it.

"Choice" and "Technology" are key words to use when describing the Blackduck High School curriculum. Students have an extremely wide variety of classes from which to choose, depending upon their abilities and interests. Many classes incorporate some aspect of technology, with teacher and student use of computers commonplace.

The expanded art curriculum now includes classes in painting, ceramics, photography, and printing, as well as the exploratory art classes. Business classes such as "Computer Applications in Business" require daily use of computers. The English department offers classes in World Literature, American Literature, English Literature, Research Paper, Speech, Creative Writing, Expository Writing, and Practical Communications.

Computer use is also a large part of classes in the Industrial Technology department particularly in the Computer-Assisted Drafting class. The department also offers classes in woodworking, drafting, small engines, electricity, product research and development, cabinetry, and electronics. The Construction Trades classes build a house in Blackduck every other year. The last house built sold for almost $80,000!

The mathematics department offers challenging courses from basic math courses to calculus. Other courses include Algebra I & II, Plane Geometry, Advanced Topics, and Pre-Calculus. Advanced Placement tests are also available for students going on to college.

Computer courses are extremely popular with the students. Through a variety of courses, students can learn about word processing programs, desktop publishing, scanner and digital camera use, data bases, spreadsheets, graphing, home finance programs, the Internet, image processing, presentation programs such as PowerPoint computer hardware and much more. The high school has three computer labs for students, with the most up-to-date computers placed there for student use. The library lab is in constant use during the school day, as students word process many assignments. Computers are also vital for staff, as both attendance-taking and grading are done on computers.

Blackduck is very proud of its music program. Both the 912 band and choir classes have student numbers approaching 100, and the gym is always filled to capacity for concerts. Jazz Band and a senior high music appreciation course are also offered within the department.

Family and Consumer Science is the new name for home economics. Not only has the name changed, but the courses offered in the department are much different than they were years ago. Present classes include Clothing, Community Leadership, Food Power, Family Life, Parenting, Child Development, Foods for Fitness, Foods 2000, and Personal Finance.

Physical Education is a required course through the tenth grade, with classes focusing much more on life-long activities than in the past. Students now are introduced to tennis, golf, cross-country skiing, weight-training, and healthy lifestyles, in addition to the more traditional activities. An advanced physical education class is offered every other year. Required health classes complement the physical education classes.

Opportunities for students in the science area are many. By the time they graduate, students can take courses in life science, earth science, physical science, biology, advanced biology, chemistry, physics, ecology, and advanced earth science. Science classes, too, incorporate the use of technology into the curriculum.

Social studies teachers offer Civics, Geography, American History, Economics, Sociology, World History, and Psychology. Students rely heavily on the library and the Internet as sources of information for their research topics.

Blackduck High School is proud that we can continue to offer Agriculture courses for our students. The agriculture curriculum has changed a great deal over the years, and now includes Horticulture, Welding, Advanced Welding, Metals Fabrications, Aquaculture, Advanced Horticulture, Small Engines, Large Engines, Farm Management, Animal Science, Wildlife Science, and a supervised work program.

Blackduck offers two foreign languages, German and Spanish. Students can take up to three years of each language. Students who want to travel have the opportunity to go to either Spain or Germany with their teacher. Many students take advantage of this special opportunity.

Special Education programs have expanded, with help available to students with learning disabilities, behavioral or emotional disabilities, and students with mild, moderate, or severe mental impairments. Special education students are routinely in mainstream classes, with help provided to make them successful. Some special education students are placed in job sites throughout the community to gain important work experience.

In addition to the academic curriculum Blackduck High School offers many extracurricular activities to students. Along with football, volleyball, boys and girls basketball, wrestling, boys and girls golf, boys and girls track, cross-country skiing, baseball, and softball, students can participate in FFA, FLA, the fall play, the one-act play, the yearbook, declamation, cheer-leading, knowledge bowl, LifeSmarts, German Club, and Spanish Club.

The new Minnesota Graduation Standards have added another dimension to the curriculum as students not only must complete all classes required for graduation, but must also pass State Tests in Reading, Mathematics, and Writing to receive a diploma. They must also pass a minimum number of standards in grades 9-12 in order to graduate. Recent legislative changes now allow schools to make local decisions about some parts of the graduation standards.

Contributed by Andrew Thienes

Blackduck Realty, which is locally owned and operated, was established in September 1981. Andrew Thienes, the present owner, purchased the company from his parents in January 1995. They had purchased the property from Bill Balsiger in April 1985. Both Walt and Connie Thienes have kept their hand in the business during the summer months and spend the winters in Arkansas.

The company started out in the area now occupied by Food and Fuel. The building and business was moved to the lot that is located just west of the Northland Community Bank. In 1987, Walt and Connie purchased the former drive-in which is located across the street from the Parks Building. The business has been located at this location the past 13 years.    Home Page    Contact Us    Privacy



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