Kealey Bultena

SDPB News Reporter

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).

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University Sioux Falls officials say their school can fill a void left when a community college closed. USF is preparing to launch a program aimed at helping people learn English so they can go to college or become skilled workers. A program that used to help those students ended earlier this year. Now USF leaders say they’re resurrecting the opportunity.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Political parties court different demographics, and one crucial group of voters includes young people. Many have the chance to vote in their first presidential election this year. College students studying media at the University of Sioux Falls are watching the presidential race, and they’re learning to balance their journalism training with their Constitutional rights. 

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Educators in Sioux Falls say they want computer science classes to equip kids with technology skills and context in the digital community. The Sioux Falls School District implemented a new curriculum one year ago; that move ended keyboarding classes for students in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.

Middle school curriculum coordinator Sandy Henry says in the spring the district assessed 1,140 sixth graders. She says the average they could type was 23 words per minute.

Some Nebraska lawmakers are campaigning for a South Dakota ballot initiative. Nebraska elects state legislators without separating them into political parties. They say many of the legislative races in South Dakota are decided even before the general election - and that erodes the integrity of the political system. Nebraska has used non-partisan elections for more than 80 years. SDPB's Kealey Bultena has this conversation with Nebraska State Senators Galen Hadley, Colby Coash and Adam Morfeld.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Convicted killer Rodney Berget says he wants to stop an appeal that’s preventing him from being put to death, but his attorney can't support the move. The issues are enough to delay major action in Rodney Berget’s case for a few months.

Rodney Berget was in a Minnehaha County courtroom Friday. He wants to end his execution appeal.

Judge Douglas Hoffman asked if he understood that waiving his rights is a path to execution. Berget responded "yes".

That wasn’t enough for the judge to authorize a path to execution that day.

Courtesy Melody Schopp

South Dakota’s Secretary of Education is reflecting on a recent trip to Africa. Melody Schopp is set to be the next president of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and she went to Malawi last week through the US Department of State.

Schopp says students in Malawi learn in huge classes or groups outside, and they don’t have bright, colorful classrooms like she sees in South Dakota. She says she saw this while touring African schools.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Many teachers spend their summers preparing for class by attending seminars, plotting lesson plans, and incorporating technology into coursework. Yet one instructor in Sioux Falls goes dumpster diving. Meet a longtime woods teacher who is not afraid to plunge into his work.

Bob Darkow’s classroom is so typical it’s borderline boring. He has scrawled the classes he teaches in black marker on a white board attached to a beige cinderblock wall. Dark blue plastic chairs rest under school desks grouped in pods of four. A shiny, wooden rectangular box sits on one surface.

Medtronic

Cardiologists in Rapid City are using a new pacemaker that is fully implanted inside a person’s heart. The FDA only recently approved the technology. Doctor Kelly Airey with Rapid City Regional Hospital performed the first procedure to place the pacemaker.  Her patient is impressed.

Paul Baldwin has had two traditional pacemakers to normalize and regulate his heartbeat. When his latest device’s battery was up for replacement, he talked with Dr. Kelly Airey about his options. Baldwin says she recommended a tiny pacemaker that’s self-contained within his heart.

South Dakota Public Broadcasting

West Nile has killed an elderly South Dakotan. State Health Department leaders say the person lived in Yankton County and was in the age range of 80 to 89. That case is one of dozens reported this summer, and officials looking to Labor Day expect even more infections.

South Dakota ended 2015 with 40 cases of West Nile Virus. State epidemiologist Lon Kightlinger says 2016 so far almost doubles last year’s total.

"We’re having a fairly heavy year this year with West Nile," Kightlinger says. "We’ve had 74 cases reported, and the number’s growing every day."

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

South Dakotans who don’t have insurance are more likely to skip cancer screenings. Figures from the South Dakota Department of Health show insurance status affects patients’ preventative care decisions.

Health leaders are examining cancer screening rates, and they say a stark division emerges when breaking down the numbers.

Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon leads South Dakota’s Department of Health. She says people without insurance receive fewer cancer screenings than people with health coverage.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Public safety officials say this year’s holiday weekend breaks a trend in fatal crashes on South Dakota roads. Lee Axdahl is director of the state’s Office of Highway Safety.

"We always head into Memorial Day weekend, which is the unofficial start of summer, with our fingers crossed, and this year that worked," Axdahl says. "Apparently, from the information that we have so far in South Dakota, we don't know of any roadway fatalities that have been reported in the state for the official Memorial Day weekend, which is good, because in 2014 we had six fatalities and in 2015 we had four."

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A Pierre man is alive because first responders used a medication to reverse the effects of a drug overdose. Officials credit the drug Narcan for saving the man’s life.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says emergency crews responded to a call in Pierre Monday night for a man who needed medical attention.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A United States Senator and a state lawmaker agree that the federal government is failing to provide adequate health care to Native Americans. United States Senator John Thune and South Dakota State Senator Troy Heinert see different solutions to ongoing problems with the Indian Health Service.

U-S  Senator Thune has legislation in Congress aimed at comprehensive reform for federal health services for Native Americans. He says the bill makes it easier to fire ineffective IHS leaders, examines whistle-blower protections, and requires fiscal accountability so patient care funds actually make it to patients.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

The 42nd president was back on the campaign trail in South Dakota Friday – this time not for his own political race but for his wife. Former US President Bill Clinton spent time in Sioux Falls stumping for democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Pop music pumped through the speakers in Sioux Falls as people who waited in line excitedly filed into a space draped with stars and stripes, including massive flags. More than an hour and a half later, former president Bill Clinton took the stage.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Avera is launching the first South Dakota-based study to track twins. The health organization’s Institute for Human Genetics has partnered with the world’s leading twin registry out of the Netherlands for seven years. Now the Avera Twin Register will collect and analyze DNA from twins.

Doctor Dave Kapaska is the regional president and CEO of Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls. He highlights how people are fascinated by multiples as he introduces two Avera physicians who are twins and mixes them up in the process.

Crazy Horse School is receiving a federal grant worth $107,631 to help students cope with suicide on the Pine Ridge Reservation. This is the third grant from the US Department of Education to Pine Ridge schools after tribal leaders declared a state of emergency following a string of suicides.

Project SERV grants target schools where kids experience significant violent or traumatic events. The latest funding adds two counselors at Crazy Horse School in Wanblee to help restore the learning environment.

Secretary John King leads the US Department of Education.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

People in Delmont are marking the anniversary of a tornado that tore through the tiny town. The storm struck mid-morning on May 10, 2015. No one died, but several people were hurt, and the storm brought widespread damage to the southeast South Dakota community. Some residents are still rebuilding while others have left for good. 

One year ago, crews used machines to shove massive piles of broken boards, downed trees, and debris off the streets of Delmont. A tornado toppled cars, shattered windows, and decimated city landmarks.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A new study shows judicial reforms saved South Dakota $34 million in the first two years. Sweeping changes in mid-2013 included presumptive probation. That means judges sentencing people for low-level felonies keep offenders in communities instead of sending them to prison. Researchers from the Justice Policy Center say initial results are promising, but the work isn’t finished.

A new report indicates changes that keep more offenders out of prison are helping state coffers without risking public safety.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

South Dakotans list agriculture as the number one driver of economic development. That’s according to a recent survey that polled people nationally and gathered data in three separate states. Some people’s perceptions of the economy don’t jibe directly with information from businesses. 

A Wells Fargo and USA Today survey polled South Dakotans to find out which sectors they think contribute to a healthy economy. The top responses in order were agriculture, health care, education, construction, and retail.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A new study shows many children in South Dakota are vulnerable when it comes to poverty and hunger. The latest information from Feeding America shows some areas have up to four out of 10 kids who don’t know where they’ll get their next meal. The annual report is a detailed look at food insecurity in the state.

The latest data on hunger issues in South Dakota shows 12.4 percent of people in the state are food insecure. That number is unchanged from last year, but Kerri DeGraff with Feeding South Dakota says more South Dakotans are hungry.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Survey crews are training for a time when the emerald ash borer finds its way to South Dakota trees. The exotic insect feeds on black, green or white ash. The trees have no defense against the beetle. State, local, and federal agencies are collaborating on a practice exercise in Sioux Falls.

State forester Gregory Josten says to claim South Dakota has escaped the emerald ash borer so far isn’t necessarily true.

"We don’t know for sure that it’s not here, but we have not found it here yet," Josten says.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Three people connected to the GEAR UP program and Mid-Central Education Cooperative have been arraigned on accusations of fraud and financial crimes. Stacy Phelps, Dan Guericke, and Stephanie Hubers each pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Lake Andes.

Marty Jackley is South Dakota’s Attorney General.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

People who don’t pay attention while driving in Sioux Falls are now more likely to be pulled over. City officials are teaming up with the police department on a campaign to curb distracted driving. State law bans texting while behind the wheel across South Dakota. Now Sioux Falls leaders are looking beyond cell phones.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

South Dakota School Districts are deciding how to dole out more money for teacher pay. State lawmakers passed a tax increase to raise educator salaries. Now school leaders must choose how to distribute the money in their districts. In Sioux Falls, the board has unanimously approved a 6.8 percent increase for teachers.

The GEAR UP program in South Dakota is now operating from Black Hills State University. The education effort aims to prepare Native American students for college. Most recently GEAR UP is tied to accusations of wrongdoing as former leaders face criminal charges. Despite the challenges, the program is under new leadership and moving forward.

Incoming high school students from schools participating in GEAR UP are eligible to apply for a three-week program promoting college readiness and culture.

Bishop Dudley Hospitality House

A Sioux Falls emergency shelter is implementing a pay-for-stay program for some guests. The Bishop Dudley Hospitality House offers lodging for the homeless and vulnerable. The new system is part of a focus on supporting people who need temporary assistance.

Starting May 2nd, people who work but don’t have homes receive 30 days lodging at the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House for free. After that, executive director Chad Campbell says they’ll have to pay.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Spring weather is here. For many South Dakotans that means getting outdoors and barbecuing or even standing around a campfire. While people take advantage of the warmer weather, first responders urge them to enjoy fire with caution. Sioux Falls Fire Rescue crews are using controlled demonstrations to prove how dangerous unattended grills and fire pits can be.

Sioux Falls fire inspector Tyler Tjeerdsma tosses hamburgers onto a grill that stands right next to a wall. He closes the lid, and within minutes the beige vinyl siding blackens and peels apart like taffy.

Advocates in Sioux Falls this week aim to empower people with disabilities and encourage others to embrace the talents they offer. Service providers, educators, employers and people with disabilities are collaborating to promote inclusion.

South Dakota advocates are celebrating the fact that the state has the highest rate of employment for people with disabilities in the nation. Wendy Parent-Johnson is executive director for the Center for Disabilities.

Teachers from around South Dakota are collaborating to find new ways to engage students in problem solving. A conference on Technology and Innovation in Education wrapped up this week. One of the dozens of sessions focused on helping students break into a box by thinking outside of it.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A grand jury has indicted three people for felony crimes related to a Native American education program. State leaders say people within GEAR UP and Mid-Central Education Cooperative used the programs to steal more than one million dollars. Two of them died in a murder-suicide in September. Authorities announced charges against three other leaders last month.  

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