Eye on KELOLAND: A closer look at Sioux Falls School Board candidates


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Whether you have kids or not, Tuesday is your chance to help shape their future education. That’s when voters will decide who will fill a seat on the Sioux Falls School Board.

Incumbent Cynthia Mickelson faces challenger Sarah Stokke.

“Voting for your board members is so important because we are the gatekeepers of the budget. We hire the superintendent. We set policy,” Mickelson said.

“If I want change, I need to get invested in it and that’s why I thought running for school board would be an easy way to get in and get involved,” Stokke said.

School board member is an important job. The winner will oversee transition to a new superintendent, and the opening of several new schools. Stokke and Mickelson are vying for the School Board seat Mickelson has held for three years. A position Mickelson, who is currently board president, wants to keep.

“I feel like I hit my stride now, so now that I have that basis of knowledge, I just think I’ll be an even more effective board member than I already have,” Mickelson said.

In her time on the board, Mickelson has helped over see the passage of a $190 million bond. More than 85-percent of voters said yes, which paved the way for new construction in the district, including a new high school and middle school.

“It showed Dr. Maher (Sioux Falls School District superintendent) and the district and the board really took community input, so we made sure what we were presenting for the vote was something the community could get behind. That showed with the results we had,” Mickelson said.

Mickelson says future challenges for the district include the budget, and says low sales tax revenue in the state, due to COVID-19, will complicate that. Half of elementary students in the district qualify for free or reduced lunch. Mickelson says tackling the rate of student poverty is on the radar.

“When maybe budget comes into play, and we can’t have everything we want through our state and local funding, we need to look at private resources,” Mickelson said.

Stokke has her own list of challenges she’s looking at to improve the lives of students in the district.

“Education is so important and it’s so important to individualize it for each student. And teaching not just the way we want to teach but the way they’re going to learn,” Stokke said.

One way she wants to achieve that is to equally spread out education programs throughout the district so every student in every school can access them as the district grows.

“Where are our strengths? We know we’ve heard Spanish Immersion, we’ve heard Challenge Center, we hear all of those small programs. They’re so successful, how can we incorporate that now that we have this growth?” Stokke said. “How can we bring that into every building so everybody has a chance at it?”

Stokke says future growth also relies on making sure students have the best classroom opportunities and requires the best teachers. She’s proposing finding new opportunities for educators to continue their own educations.

“If we want students to be lifelong learners, we need educators who are lifelong learns. We should never stop learning,” Stokke said.

You may have two different candidates to choose from for the Sioux Falls School Board. This election typically has a low voter turnout, but Mickelson and Stokke want you to speak up.

Brady: Why is it so important to go out and vote to help shape the future for our kids?

Mikkelson: Children are our foundation. They are the future of Sioux Falls. So providing a quality education to them is key.
Stokke: If they feel like we didn’t invest in them when they were in pre-school or when they were a kindergartner, they’re not going to want to invest back in us when they graduate.

Voters will decide on Tuesday, June 2.

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

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