State board plans letter of praise to staffs of South Dakota schools for COVID-19 efforts

Capitol News Bureau


PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota teachers and other school employees will soon receive a letter of thanks from the state Board of Education Standards for their rapid turnaround to provide classes and other services to students at home during the COVID-19 crisis.

Board members informally agreed Monday to have their president, Jacqueline Sly of Rapid City, draft the message.

“Lots of people are in a new world for them,” Sly said. 

Secretary Ben Jones said the state Department of Education could distribute the letter to teachers and school administrators.

“As an educator that would be fantastic,” said Lori Wagner of Webster. She serves on the state board and teaches online classes through the Center for Statewide E-learning run by Northern State University in Aberdeen.

Wagner said classroom teachers face twin challenges of delivering remote courses to students at homes that don’t have internet service and to students that do have internet.

Jones said his department’s people are communicating with schools during what he described as “this remarkable time of change.” He encouraged state board members to reach out too. “That’s the first thing that comes to mind,” he said. 

Becky Guffin, a state board member who is superintendent for the Aberdeen public school district, said superintendents generally were “overwhelmed with the inundation of our inboxes already” in making the sudden switch. 

Sly, a retired teacher, acknowledged the situation could be “overwhelming at times.”

“It’s a different road that you’re building,” Sly said. She recognized support staff too. 

Jones said schools have accomplished “a miracle in many ways” by flipping around their delivery model. “Your public acknowledgement of that would be greatly appreciated,” he told the board.

Sly said the purpose for the special teleconference was to approve South Dakota’s federal Perkins V plan for career and technical education.

Laura Scheibe (SHY-bee) is state director of career and technical education. She said the state board went over the plan in detail at the January meeting and it was now in final shape, after a year and a half of work.

Scheibe said times changed because of COVID-19 — “We find ourselves in a much different situation that we were a month ago.” — but the need to update South Dakota’s Perkins standards hadn’t.

$5 million is available for South Dakota from the federal government: $2 million for secondary schools, $2 million for post-secondary classes and $1 million for state government to pursue its goals, she said.

Scheibe said the plan is updated every four years but changes can be made during the interim if desired. Board members approved it 7-0.

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