Sioux Falls, SD
24,000 students make up the Sioux Falls School District and many participate in activities governed by the South Dakota High School Activities Association. But those students have been without a representative on the Association's eight-member board of directors since the year 2000.
That's not going to change anytime soon. Officials in Sioux Falls are frustrated but have a few options.
From decisions over site locations for state tournaments to who plays who when it comes time for playoffs, those are just a few of the choices made by a powerful eight-member board consisting of representatives from across South Dakota.
"Boy, for the sheer numbers, we seem to be excluded so, I hate that. We're the big gorilla at the other end of the state," Todd Thoelke said.
Sioux Falls, despite accounting for 20 percent of the state's students, hasn't had a member voted in since the mid 1990s. Thoelke, a Sioux Falls School Board member, was hoping to end the drought. However, he wasn't elected to the board.
"I think we need to have our voice heard and to continually be shunned, it's a little frustrating. But you know, the state voted and the tally was in and I was, once again, not elected," Thoelke said.
Each school in the state, regardless of size, gets one vote. Sandy Klatt of Brandon Valley and James Hansen of Rapid City survived the seven candidate field this go around. They'll face each other in a runoff election for the open seat. While both could be sympathetic to Sioux Falls causes, O'Gorman Activities Director Steve Kueter would like to see someone from the state's biggest city at the table.
"Well, I think we've come to realize that's the new normal; that's the way it's been. There was a time, I've been at this a long time, there was a time when we could get representation on there but that hasn't happened in recent history. It's frustrating from that standpoint, but I guess it's the way it is and we've just learned to deal with it," Keuter said.
That's because it's not easy to just change the Association's constitution. Kueter says doing so would require a statewide vote. He adds there's no incentive for schools to give Sioux Falls power. He doesn't blame board members for protecting their towns. Kueter thinks if this trend continues, there needs to be someone from Sioux Falls on the board.
"Let's say you're from Huron, I don't think you can be on that board and vote to take a tournament out of Huron. And the same with Mitchell, Watertown, Aberdeen or Sioux Falls. I just think you're going to end up representing the place you live. Because that's inherent to what you're doing; it's important that you get representation from across the state," Kueter said.
With brand new facilities like the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center and the Pentagon, there's more prime facilities for tournaments in Sioux Falls. Officials say that would enhance the student-athlete experience and bring in more money. But what are Sioux Falls' options for changing their current situation?
"My personal suggestion would be having the legislature look at this and look at their governance and say, you know, automatically Sioux Falls and Rapid City, just from sheer numbers, should have a seat on the board," Thoelke said.
It's a topic Thoelke will be looking into as he reflects on another failed attempt for Sioux Falls to get representation.
"Perception is reality, and when you don't have Sioux Falls there at all, people start looking at it saying, 'Why isn't Sioux Falls a part of this?' I think just from the standpoint alone to show fairness, we need to be there," Thoelke said.
The next position that a Sioux Falls rep can be considered for will be next year when the East River At-Large position will become available. The person eligible to run would have to be an athletic or activities director.
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