Entries Tagged 'SF School District' ↓

Thumbs Up to Mr. Andrew Travers


I had the pleasure of meeting Andrew this summer over some great micro-brews at my neighborhood watering hole. We had a great convo about public education in Sioux Falls and his tenure at McGovern school.

I was so happy to see this story about him on KDLT.

There are great people in our community, and Andrew is one of them.

Sioux Falls School Board done good, but still not happy with how they did it

I attended Democratic Forum today and was pleasantly surprised of the performance of the new Super, Brian Maher. He was the guest speaker today. He is articulate, honest, humble, intelligent, and really quit witted and funny. He shot the crowd straight and answered questions fairly and when he didn’t have an answer told them why. A whole other ball of wax of our past Super, oh, and he came to the snake pit without an entourage.

I have been watching Brian in the media, and so far he has been storming straight ahead, and as he told the crowd today, he cares most about the education of the children above everything else. In other words, we can keep secrets all we want, we can cry about calendar dates or teacher pay, but at the end of the day it is about the kids. I am impressed. The school board picked a great leader (or should I say their consultant did :)

While the choice of Super Maher is commendable, I still take issue with how his hiring was handled, in total secrecy. Do I have any doubts that Brian was the best choice, not really, but when we don’t know who else was angling for the job, we may never know. But for now, he fits the bill and I think he will do great things.

The New SF Super of Schools must have found the ‘Stehly’ files

I wondered how long it would take Brian to stumble across Theresa’s top secret files;

With the first board meeting of the school year, Sioux Falls’ Superintendent Brian Maher is hitting the ground running. One of the first things he’d like to get approved is a pay increase for substitute teachers.

“We want somebody more than just a warm body in there. And I think pay, or how you value a position, always is related to the quality that you have in front of the classroom,” Maher said.

The district usually likes to have at least 400 to 450 substitutes on hand throughout the year. Currently there are 200 on staff. Maher says going from $100 a day to $110 a day will hopefully make an impact in the substitute teacher pool.

“When you’re behind your neighbors in terms of pay, it’s going to be even a bigger challenge. What we’re trying to do is at least remedy that part of the equation,” Maher said.

WOW! What a change. Just a few years ago Theresa fought for this change, at one point being threatened by the SFPD as to where she could distribute fliers. Today, our new super is proposing the change based on common sense.

Chad McKenzie really misses the mark on this one

I guess I have really never listened to Chad’s blabbering on his cup of coffee show or whatever he does, but this ridiculous claim about the later school start date was literally pulled out of his butt (or a friend’s butt);

In case you’ve forgotten, the Sioux Falls Public Schools don’t begin until after Labor Day this year. Remember – back in April we actually had a public vote on the issue – thanks to a vocal group of lake cabin moms (sorry, personal conjecture on my part).

While most area schools are already back in session (I’m writing this on Monday August 24), the Sioux Falls public students still have two more weeks of vacation left. They’re not scheduled to return until Tuesday September 8, with school then ending on June 2.

After visiting with a friend who works part-time at a big box store, I’m wondering how many Sioux Falls public parents are having a difficult time finding all the necessary school supplies for their kids. Seems the shelves are bare – and have been for awhile.

I’m guessing those who voted ‘yes’ for the calendar change never thought about the possible consequences down the road. I’ve heard from several parents of public students complaining about all the school supplies being picked over and even completely gone.

My hope is if you’re reading this, and you have a child in the Sioux Falls Public School system, you went out early on and purchased everything your child needed for school. If not – good luck. From what I hear, it’s slim pick ins’ out there.

Then again, I guess you could always call one of those ‘Lake Cabin Moms’ and see if they have any connections. I’m sure they’d be more than happy to help you out – (wink, wink)!

We will get to the ‘Lake Cabin Moms’ statement in a moment. But to think that;

1) A Walmart greeter is an expert on retail inventory of a big box store is like saying I’m an expert on international public policy because I run a blog.

2) Just because SF public schools are starting 3 weeks later doesn’t mean parents are holding off their shopping for 3 weeks.

3) Let’s say that they are holding off, good for them, they will be able to take advantage of the sales. In fact, Jesse Schmidt from the BBB said the best time to go shopping for school supplies is in October to get the best deals.

4) And lastly, if places like Staples and Office Max didn’t keep inventory, they would be out of business.

Obviously, Chad’s comments about school supply shortages are ridiculous, but his comment about ‘Lake Cabin Moms’ couldn’t be further from the truth. Three of the ladies involved in the petition drive all have very respected jobs. One is a communications/marketing director, one works in administration for a college and one is an elected city official, hardly ‘house wives’ that spend their summers at the Lake Cabin.

Of course I wouldn’t expect anything less from Chad. Go back to blabbering about ice cream and breakfast bagels, or whatever you talk about on your silly show and leave the discussion about local public policy up to those who understand it.

The Chicken Lil’s are in full force over the school start date


Here we go again, calling something a ‘failure’ before it has even been tried;

“It kind of feels like we have snow days coming up, like planned snow days, and we’re certainly going to enjoy it while it lasts, but there is that feeling that, that we’re going to pay for it at some point,” Morrison said.

Morrison was against the change in the district’s school schedule which pushes the start date to after Labor Day.

“There is a little bit of feeling of dread that our kids are falling behind,” he said.

Like the campaign before the vote, they think the handful of AP students are not going to be able to pass testing after Christmas break. I guess if teachers think that is the case, they need to take a long hard look in the mirror. If you have been teaching students for several months and you think they are going to lose that knowledge over a short Christmas break, you must not have much confidence in your teaching abilities. I don’t think these kids will lose a beat. Let’s admit it, this is about SPORTS and they are using the AP students as an excuse.

“From talking to other teachers, too, I hear that, they’ll probably go with it for a few years, and I can see it changing back to the way it was, based on high school students and the AP tests and semester tests,” Middlen said.

“They’re going to negotiate a change, I’m sure of it,” Morrison said.

The School Board had SEVERAL opportunities to negotiate before petitions were taken out, they ignored voters, parents, businesses and tax payers. You lost the election, face reality. A majority of school district voters said they want to start after labor day. Done deal. These are people who pay your wages not some superintendent that used to hide in dark corners with her school board to make decisions. This reminds me of the people who still complain about Drake Springs Pool that was voted on over seven years ago, even though the city’s aquatic consultant said building a pool at Nelson Park would have been a mistake because of ground water issues. So please, let’s stop the bitch session about losing the election, and get back to teaching our children.

Super Homan; Defiant to the end


(Screenshot; Argus Leader Media) “Mistakes? What mistakes?”

At Pam’s retirement presser today, she stayed true to herself to the end. Getting a golden parachute, blaming others for her communication problems, and in denial of her career.

Not surprised, I didn’t expect a Jimmy Swaggart moment.

She told the press an announcement will be made in the next couple of weeks about her new job.

UPDATE: The conjecture amongst us South DaCola foot soldiers is she will be the new Executive Director of the South Dakota Democratic party, but Augustana and the two health systems have been mentioned. Not sure, just speculation at this point. What makes us suspicious of the ED position is that she has a very cozy relationship with the Mayor, who is probably going to run for governor.

When asked if she had any disappointments as the Super, she had only one thing to say. “I wish I would have had a bigger paper shredder.” Ho Hum, just kidding. She replied, “I wish I would have taken vacation more.”

When asked by an Argus reporter about people criticizing her transparency and communication issues, she killed the messenger, literally. She blamed the Argus for basically creating the controversy.

A fitting end to Dr. Homan’s District career.

Write your own caption


It seems short-timer Super-Duper Pam Homan was more concerned about her phone and text messaging then the graduates of Roosevelt HS while they were being handed their diplomas yesterday. Seems fitting.

So what do you think she was doing on her phone, I will get things rolling;

“Okay, how do I change my FB status to retired superintendent to full-time hobby equestrian?”

“Oh, Grumpy Cat, how you make me laugh.”

“I can’t believe they let school out this early, it’s gonna be colder then sh*t this week!”

Letter to the Editor about Initiatives

I wrote this letter to the Argus, because there seems to be this impression by parents, teachers and elected officials that the I & R process is somehow harmful to the democratic process, couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a check an balance against our elected officials when they make bad decisions.

I had to edit the letter that printed in the paper, so I am posting the pre-edited version here;

Part of South Dakota’s proud history is the initiative and referendum process. South Dakota, the first state to adopt initiative and referendum on a statewide level, did so in 1898. In fact, South Dakota was the only state to originate the idea in the actual state. In the last decade, South Dakotans have approved initiatives regarding term limits, tax reform, freedom of choice (abortion) and gaming. The renewed use of the initiative process in the late 70’s can be attributed to Governor William Janklow. Janklow was a strong supporter of the initiative process and advocated its use.

I have been involved with many petition drives for initiatives and referendums. I have either carried a petition, OR helped behind the scenes for the cause. It is truly an example of democracy at work on a grassroots level.

Recently I have seen many letters to the editor complaining about this very process when it came to the school start date. I scratch my head about how little our supposed educators know about the process and how it works. I kind of wonder what kind of civics lessons our children are getting in school, but that is whole other topic.

I will explain the process very simply; our elected officials are human and fallible, just like you and me. They are not perfect, and they make mistakes, sometimes these mistakes are made in their elected capacity. The I & R process is there to correct these mistakes, not to scold the elected, teach them a lesson or embarrass them.

I pose a great example of this in recent history in our city government. In the first term of Sioux Falls City Councilor Kermit Staggers, he often offered an amendment to the budget suggesting the testing of snow gates. His fellow councilors would vote it down, each time he offered it. When Dr. Staggers was running for mayor, he once again brought up the topic of snow gates, his main opponent, Mayor Huether quickly learned that snow gates was a popular topic with constituents, and essentially stole the idea from the Staggers camp (amongst many other great ideas). But to Huether’s credit, once he became mayor, he authorized testing the devices. The city council, once again, was not happy about the expenditure. Huether was determined to get them in full swing. The city council did not approve.

In comes citizen advocate Theresa Stehly with a very successful petition drive to get snow gates on the ballot. Ironically a petition that Huether refused to sign (but councilors Staggers, Jamison and Anderson did sign). The council was so against the petition drive and snow gates, that after the petition was certified for the ballot, the first attempt by the petitioners to get it on a shared school election ballot was voted down by the city council. In fact the petitioners testimony was limited and censored by the mayor and city councilor Michelle Erpenbach.

Fast forward to the last city election. Snow gates passed with over 70% of the vote, and unlike Walmart spending over $20 a vote for their cause, the snow gate petitioners spent practically nothing and had a nonexistent campaign. They didn’t need to, PEOPLE WANTED SNOW GATES!

Like the August school start date decision by the school board, the city councilors opposed to snow gates were simply making a misguided decision, and the I & R process helped constituents to correct their mistakes. No harm, no foul, just democracy at work.

UPDATE: Is the Elton John concert trumping Roosevelt’s Homecoming?

UPDATE: I just heard that SMG did NOT ask the School District to move the game. SMG felt that the District decided on their own to move the game. Not sure if an official from the city pressured them or not?

I got an anonymous tip today that the City is asking the School District to re-schedule the football game (Roosevelt’s Homecoming) scheduled at Howard Wood on October 2nd.

The reason the City is making this request is that the existing parking at the Events Center/Howard Wood may not support both the Elton John concert and Roosevelt’s Homecoming football game.

I guess we will see if the School District caves on the request . . .

According to their calendar, the change has not been made yet.


The Sioux Falls School Board’s SUPER failure on the new SUPER hire

The school board can dress the contract negotiation up how ever they want, but let’s look at what they are giving the new Super;

• $200,000 a year in salary + medical and pension

• Four weeks of vacation and 15 days sick leave (Total 35 days off paid)

• $2,900 a month in ‘fringe benefits’ ($34,800 per year)

• $750 a month for transportation ($9,000 per year)

• $25,000 one time moving reimbursement

Let’s review;

• They are paying the new super who is currently in command of a student body of 5,300 (SF has 23,000) $25,000 more a year then the current Super makes after her 11 years of service (talk about a slap in the face to Homan and a bit of over confidence in Maher).

• He basically gets a month of vacation on day one.

• His ‘play money’ account is more then some teachers in the district make in a year.

• Even if he leased a really nice vehicle (which includes most maintenance) put gas in it, and insured it on his own, that would come to about $550 a month. He is pretty much getting paid $750 a month to drive to work. I would only give him $25 a month (that is the price of a monthly bus pass).

• Moving expenses are something the private sector does to lure good workers, it should NOT occur in the public sector.

When I hear the School Board talk about children’s education being their top priority, and I see them negotiate a contract like this, I want to ask them the question, “You do know the more money that goes towards teachers and classrooms the better the kid’s education?” It seems the school board’s concept of salaries in the education field is to be ‘top heavy’ and hope that trickles down to the students somehow. Okay Ronald Reagan.

So why do I think this contract was a total failure on their part and an insult to taxpayers? For the same reason the ‘Save our Summers’ group won in the last election; The lack of transparency, prudence, humility & compromise by our school board. But instead of applying these qualities to the Super search and employment, they once again slipped and instead of apologizing for their blatant ignorance, they defend it.

I told a teacher today who voted YES and wanted to keep the current school calendar, “You have no one to blame for the calendar change then the inept school board, this wasn’t the teacher’s fault.” He agreed they should have listened to a compromise.

Maybe the next time the board makes such a stupid financial decision (and it was really freaking stupid) we need to get the combat vets involved, they have at knack changing board members minds.