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Jeff Danielsen, Watertown School District
Superintendents of South Dakota:
I am honored to be writing this article as the President of the South Dakota Superintendents Association. Our organization is composed of the leaders from districts large and small throughout the great state of South Dakota. I am starting my 26th year in education and 13th as a school Superintendent.
As we look into the horizon for things to keep an eye on, we know that the additional dollars provided by our state legislature two years ago was a great way to increase teacher salaries in our state. We have seen an unprecedented increase in the average salary of South Dakota educators, and that is much appreciated. We also know that all the other costs of running a school district still remain and are focused on funding challenges at the local level.
Public schools are the backbone of most communities in the state. We know that school activities hold a place of significance that rivals no other in even some of the largest cities. Public schools as voiced by Thomas Jefferson are the “great equalizer,” and remain central to the democracy of our country. First established in the early 1800’s, public schools tie together the fundamental tenets at the core of this country, individualism, community, and democracy. Our forefathers believed that educating all was a right and that our country would be better off with an educated workforce where all had a shot at a better life.
Throughout their existence, public schools have battled the idea of “I” vs. “We” and trying to be all things to all people can be daunting. We have many different groups pulling at the schools to take care of their individual needs, and we must remain mission-focused on the ideas behind what we must do and that is provide a quality education to allow all children a chance to succeed. This may mean adding and subtracting based on the needs of 21st Century learning.
We watch with interest this year as our Governor is rolling out a workforce initiative. We also look to see what types of gains will be made in the area of pre-school education. How do we balance those two ends of the educational spectrum with the current dollars available? Will we be able to garner support from unknown sources to help us accomplish assistance for students before the age of five as well as those job-related skillsets for those children 17-18 years old and looking to the workforce? Those both remain good questions as we head into the January legislative session of 2018.
SDSSA members should take a look at AASA’s “I Love Public Education” campaign, http://lovepubliceducation.org. Our national organization is looking to put public education and all it’s benefit in the forefront of the minds of all people. We know that locally, people support their own public schools but often think on a national basis that they aren’t up to par. Supporting all public schools is a way to make sure they last even through political tailwinds that don’t value public schools as much as school choice.
Finally, I would encourage our members to get involved as a professional whenever possible. Attendance at your regional meetings as well as the many opportunities provided by SASD and ASBSD are good ways to promote the profession. Reach out and develop your own network of support to help yourself as well as your peers allows us all to succeed. My continued best wishes on a successful 2017-18 school year.