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Board of Higher Education okays NDSCS plans for a Fargo career academy

Dave Thompson
Prairie Public

The state Board of Higher Education has approved a lease agreement between the North Dakota College of Science in Wahpeton and the NDSCS Foundation to build a career academy in Fargo.

It would be done in collaboration with four local school districts in Cass County.

The Foundation would build it, and NDSCS would be leasing it.

The cost: From $20 million to $30 million.

The matter has been pending since 2017. At that time, the Board voted to give NDSCS President John Richman the go-ahead to fundraise for the project. It became a contentious issue at that June 2017 meeting. Chancellor Mark Hagerott said some Board members were expecting a report only, but it turned into an action item.

"That kind of complicated things," Hagerott told the Board. "In an afternoon, it went from 'Let's discuss this' to then, a couple of board members made a motion for 'Let's take action today on this.' And people, including the chair, were not prepared, and it kind of rushed through."

Richman said the career academy was part of the goals Hagerott approved for every year since that time.

Board member Kathy Neset was the chair in 2017. She told the Board she objects to the process.

"If this has been brought forward for some kind of approval by having them in the goals, which were 514 pages this past year, I do not fell that this process is a proper way to vet a project of $20 million plus $10 million dollars," Neset said.

Richman countered that the partners looked at a number of options – but came to the conclusion the lease agreement was the best option.

"For 23 years, the model has worked," Richman said.  "Let our foundation be the owner, let us rent from them, and operate it, this time in partnership and collaboration with four school districts."

The Board voted 5 to 3 to approve the lease arrangement. Board chairman Nick Hacker, who was on the board in 2017, and voted no at that time, was a "yes" vote this time.

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