Western Dakota Tech seeks independence

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Pierre Capital Generic

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A public two-year campus that offers career training in Rapid City wants to break away from the local school district, according to the executive director for the South Dakota Board of Technical Education.

Nick Wendell said Monday the state board will consider a petition May 24 from Western Dakota Technical Institute to become a local education agency.

He said leaders from Western Dakota Tech and the Rapid City School District have been working on a plan. It would make Western Dakota separate and distinct from the local school board.

The Rapid City board president and WDTI president Ann Bolman signed the three-page agreement May 14, 2019, and it was submitted on October 19, 2019, to the state board. Supporting historical documents run more than 230 pages.

Wendell made his comments Monday as he briefed the state Board of Education Standards about the tech board’s recent activities.

He said there wouldn’t be any effect on the tech board’s three other public campuses: Southeast Technical Institute at Sioux Falls, Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, and Mitchell Technical Institute.

They remain tied to their local school districts. None of them are planning similar breakaways, according to Wendell.

He described the coming split of Western Dakota from the Rapid City district as “a collaborative effort” that began about 15 months ago.

The signed agreement calls for the Rapid City school board to make the initial appointments to a new Western Dakota governing board.

Wendell said a new board at Western Dakota would be able to expand and broaden representation throughout the region, reaching beyond the school district boundaries.

He said the state board wants to get the process right the first time, even though none of the other campuses are exploring it, and he emphasized this didn’t come from within the state board.

Wendell also highlighted a new state law that takes effect July 1 would change the names of the campuses from institutes to colleges. He said college better describes a campus that offers two-year degrees.

South Dakota voters approved creation of the state Board of Technical Education in 2016. The state Board of Education Standards previously oversaw the four public technical institutes.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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