Newly-elected school board members discuss priorities & civics standards

Education

SIOUX FALLS (KELO) — The new makeup of the Sioux Falls School Board will include a first-time board member as well as a longtime incumbent. Voters in the district elected Marc Murren to his first term in office and Kate Parker to her fifth term.

Murren is a retired Washington High School teacher and coach who says he’ll be doing a lot of learning on the job when he takes over his position on the school board in July. Meanwhile, Kate Parker says she brings a lot of experience and institutional memory to the table having already served 12 years on the school board.

Both Murren and Parker says the school district is well-positioned to serve students in the future, but add that they have some concerns about the statewide initiative in teaching civics and history.

Marc Murren credits his strong ties to the community for helping him become the top vote-getter in the Sioux Falls School Board election.

“I was raised here, I moved away for, and then coached for the last 32 years here in Sioux Falls, I made a lot of connections,” Murren said.

Kate Parker, meanwhile, sees her election to a fifth term on the board as a validation from voters on her 12 previous years in office.

“I’m hoping what it says is that the community has trust in me and what I’ve done on the board and my work has spoken for itself,” Parker said.

Both Parker and Murren say improving reading skills among Sioux Falls students will be a priority when they begin their terms in July.

“Third-grade reading levels are definitely not where we would want them to be,” Parker said.

“We have to go where kids are, if you’re reading at a 5th grade level and you’re an eighth grader, we gotta get to the fifth grade level and try to bring you up,” Murren said.

Murren and Parker say they’re concerned that the state effort to rework history and civics standards could be subject to political agendas that don’t belong in the classroom.

“I think there’s a little bit of over-reach from that standpoint. We believe in local control and we do have state standards that we have to follow,” Parker said.

“We all want to look at history from our point of view and that does worry me at times,” Murren said.

Parker and Murren say Sioux Falls teachers have done a great job of teaching civics and history in the past, and that decisions on what students will learn in the future are best left to local educators.

Both Parker and Murren say the five-percent voter turnout for Tuesday’s school board election is not great, but add that it’s still a higher total than previous stand-alone elections.

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