Dakota Digest for November 20, 2015

Nov 21, 2015

On this week's edition of Dakota Digest, Jewel Cave surpasses 180 miles long, lawmakers discuss education, and a former middle school teacher gets 25 years in prison for child pornography.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Some lawmakers on South Dakota’s education task force say they hoped for a more specific funding plan. The report from the Blue Ribbon committee includes many precise recommendations. Some members say the final numbers don’t go far enough.

Dakota Midday: Leadership SD

Nov 17, 2015

Leadership South Dakota aims to build the next generation of state leaders.

The program sends participants to different locations across the state like the State Capitol in Pierre, South Dakota State University in Brookings, and Oglala Lakota College in Kyle.
Students spend time getting to know the people and organizations in these communities.

The Blue Ribbon Task force has sent its report to Governor Dennis Daugaard.  In it they make several recommendations to improve education in South Dakota.  The task force calls for at least $75 million in ongoing additional revenue for education, boosting the average teacher salary and changing the funding formula to reflect a student teacher ratio.

Two members of the task force join us to talk about the report.  Democrat Billy Sutton and Republican Deb Soholt.

SDEA President Mary McCorkle is traveling the state as part of the annual American Education Week tour. Millions of educators and parents, students and community leaders are joining the NEW in raising awareness about the critical need to provide every child with a quality public education. Mary McCorkle joins us to talk about what’s happening in South Dakota and will also respond to the Blue Ribbon Task Force report.

NSU Receives Grant To Fund Student Support Services

Nov 16, 2015

The U.S. Department of Education is awarding nearly one and a half million dollars to a program that assists students at Northern State University. The TRIO Student Support Services Grant funds programs for those who are the first in their family to pursue a four-year degree, meet income qualifications, or have a documented disability.  


Patty Buechler

Mental health care providers working in schools receive recognition this week. Governor Dennis Daugaard has declared School Psychology Week in South Dakota to acknowledge their impact on learning. School psychologists focus on removing challenges so students can succeed in the classroom.

A library in Sioux Falls is partnering with Feeding South Dakota to provide after-school snacks for elementary students.

At 3 o'clock on a school day, students at Anne Sullivan Middle School walk across the street to Oak View Library while they wait to get picked up. Director of Siouxland Libraries  Mary Johns says staff had the idea of asking Feeding South Dakota if the two groups could partner to provide a snack for students who stay late in the evening waiting for parents.

Investigations into three separate corruption scandals involving state government are now underway in South Dakota.
They include EB-5, Gear Up, and alleged missing state funds along with items from the Secretary of State’s office.
These scandals have lead some in South Dakota to question the level of oversight in state programs.

Mt. Rushmore Presidents Offer Their Views

Oct 29, 2015
Courtesy The Educational Travel Institute of America

The four presidents whose images are carved on Mount Rushmore recently took to the stage at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Theater in Rapid City. To be clear, four renowned historical re-enactors offered a one-time only look at “Presidents” Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. With Election Day almost upon us, SDPB’s Jim Kent stopped by to ask the  legendary leaders some questions about concerns in their own administrations that are still relevant today. 

South Dakota’s scores for math and reading on a nationwide education assessment test are at or above the national average. Results on what’s often called “the Nation’s Report Card” were down in several other states.


State of South Dakota

Stakeholders examining education funding in the state are working on final recommendations to the governor. Thursday is the final meeting of South Dakota’s Blue Ribbon Task Force. Members met throughout the summer and fall to understand challenges related to K-12 education.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A Sioux Falls teacher is a recipient of a prestigious education honor. Teachers can’t apply for the Milken Educator Award; the foundation identifies candidates and selects them without letting the teacher know – that is, until this week at a surprise assembly.  

Hundreds of students at Sioux Falls Roosevelt High School stomp up bleachers in the gym. The band plays as they fill the stands and spill out onto the hardwood floor.

After introductions, Jane Foley with the Milken Family Foundation tells students one teacher can positively influence thousands of lives.

$7-Million In Bush Foundation Grants Target SD Education

Oct 19, 2015
Bush Foundaiton

The Bush Foundation has awarded about $7-million  in grants to boost education initiatives in South Dakota.

The grants aim to add to the number of Native American teachers overall and also to increase the number of indigenous language teachers.   One grant also boosts an effort to build more customized learning strategies for schools.  

Investigators say they believe Scott  Westerhuis a Platt resident and Administrator for the Mid-Central Education Cooperative, committed suicide in mid-September after he shot and killed his family and set his home on fire.  
The incident followed the termination of a $4-million dollar state contract with the Mid-Central Education Cooperative that oversaw the GEAR UP program.    
Those who formerly worked with GEAR UP now question what will happen to the six-thousand Native American students served. 

An Aberdeen native is becoming the president of Dickinson State University in western North Dakota. 

Thomas Mitzel says when he accepted the position as president of Dickinson State University, it felt like coming home.

Growing up in Aberdeen, Mitzel began his bachelor’s degree in English at Northern State University and graduated as a chemistry major. Currently he’s serving as the dean of students at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A Harrisburg High School student is in custody after police say he brought a gun to school and shot the principal. Authorities stress all students are safe and the principal is stable. Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies are collaborating on the investigation. The Lincoln County States Attorney is determining what charges the teenager faces.

High school students piled onto bright yellow school buses late Wednesday morning after law enforcement swept the building for threats. 

The University of Sioux Falls and Augustana University are adding women’s swimming and diving teams.

High school senior Bekah Honner suddenly has lots of choices to consider as she starts her application process to swim on a college team.

“It is definitely a possibility staying in state since now Augustana and USF are starting teams, but I still have to weight my options,” says Honner.

Honner is a member of snow fox swimming club in Sioux Falls. She says it’s exciting to see the sport gaining attention.


Augustana University and the University of Sioux Falls are adding swimming and diving as a varsity sport. Both schools are searching for swimmers as they look to start completing next fall.

The University of Sioux Falls has a swimming coach, but no pool or athletes yet. Josh Snyder is the athletic director at USF. He says when the city of Sioux Falls started building plans for the indoor aquatic center at Spellerberg Park, he had an idea.

Dr. Brian Maher became superintendent of the Sioux Falls School District in July.  He says the district is in good shape, but a fresh perspective by help school leaders and the community address issues of disparity amoung students.  He joined guest host Kealey Bultena to discuss Sioux Falls' position in relation to the rest of the state based on the 2015 state assessment data.

Courtesy PDR Disabled Youth Hunt

The 8th annual PDR Disabled Youth Hunt takes place in Clark this weekend. Disabled youth from several states are taking part in an all-expenses paid hunting journey that offers them the opportunity to get out in the wild with experienced guides. As SDPB’s Jim Kent reports, they’ll be using state-of-the-art equipment – some specifically designed for their needs.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A coalition of Sioux Falls area leaders is setting priorities for workforce. Business, education, government, and community stakeholders are applying national and local economic data to develop a plan for sustainability. 

Forward Sioux Falls and a company called Market Street services collected data for six months. The information spans across platforms: innovation, economic performance, workforce capacity, quality of life, business environment, labor market, public education, technical programs and higher ed.

SF High Schoolers Construct Affordable Housing

Sep 14, 2015
Erin Mairose

This week a house built by high school students is moving to a permanent home. The home is traveling down 12th street in Sioux Falls – and for a cause.

Wayne Wagner is the housing development director for Affordable Housing Solutions in Sioux Falls. The group helps low income families find cost-efficient housing while helping revitalize deteriorating neighborhoods. Wagner says a partnership with the Sioux Falls School District supports the community.

Erin Mairose

A class of high school carpentry students at the Career and Technical Education Academy is learning skills for future careers. 

Sitting in Bill Pulford’s classroom at the CTE Academy is a house.

From framing, to insulation and cabinetry, this class built the three bedroom home. Pulford says soon moving trucks are relocating the house to a permit location in Sioux Falls.  

Augustana University

Augustana College is now Augustana University. The name change was made official during ceremonies yesterday at the Sioux Falls institution’s Kirkeby-Over Stadium. Augustana is a private, liberal arts college founded in 1860. It first opened in Sioux Falls as the Lutheran Normal School in 1889. It has around 1,800 full and part-time students. Augustana University President Rob Oliver joined Dakota Midday and discussed the name change.

Augustana Changes Name To University

Sep 1, 2015
Erin Mairose

Augustana College in Sioux Falls is receiving a name change. The private liberal arts institution gathered Tuesday to officially unveil its new name as a university.

Augustana students wait in the Kirkeby-Over Stadium as professors file in and freshman take in their surroundings.

Alumni Carol Oakland says she is exciting her alma mater is expanding programs to become a university.

“I think it’s wonderful. It actually makes our degrees worth more- we are now university graduates,” says Oakland.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Preschool teachers in Sioux Falls are learning about a program that helps students recognize gender differences and build relationships. It’s called the Sanford Harmony Program, and its champion says it started when he read the famous book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Tuesday the project’s namesake talks with teachers in Sioux Falls on their first day of Harmony training.

Mock Dorm Burns In Minutes

Aug 30, 2015
Charles Michael Ray

September is Campus Fire Safety Month in South Dakota.   The idea is to raise awareness about the potential for fire in college dorms, Greek housing, and off campus apartments.

The Rapid City Fire Department held a demonstration at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology to show students the danger of structure fire.

The department set up a steel trailer with side by side rooms.  Both rooms were filled furniture and then set on fire.

Tim Behlings is an Assistant Chief at the Rapid City Fire Department.   

South Dakota schools have a waiver from No Child Left Behind but it lasts for just one year, and federal officials have put the state on high risk status.

South Dakota’s first waiver from NCLB lasted for three years. The latest exemption applies for only one year – and it’s happening because of teacher evaluations.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Members of a state task force are setting priorities to address elder abuse in South Dakota. The group met Tuesday in Sioux Falls. Task force members are trying to figure out how to prevent and punish abuse of aging populations.

The Elder Abuse Task Force is investigating the scope of elder abuse in South Dakota, and members may offer reports and policy suggestions based on what they find.