SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — After last night’s school board election, a new person now sits at the table. Dawn Marie Johnson won the election for the Sioux Falls School Board after defeating Brian Mattson by a wide margin. She tells us she is grateful and honored by the trust voters have put in her. It appears Johnson is the first woman of color to serve on the board. Johnson has two reasons to be proud today, an election victory.
“It was nice to have my daughter see the results rolling in and having everybody so excited,” said Johnson.
And the chance to interact and attend a graduation ceremony for the Axis 180 program which helps kids find safe housing and learn life skills. A program she created and helped grow. A number of students we talked with say Johnson inspires them.
“She’s a great mother, she’s a great mentor and I just love how encouraging she is she is super hands-on when she wants you to succeed,” said Student, Keymoni Green.
“She’s very calm very inspirational you know like if we have an issue she will be just like how do I resolve this and she’ll help us out,” said Student, Sam Gehl.
Johnson has a Master’s degree in social work and has spent ten years in classrooms helping kids learn.
“I do have the experience of knowing what a day looks like, and I do have the experience of understanding what educators are going through right now,” said Johnson.
She has a wide range of goals. one of them is raising the graduation rate among Native American students.
“It’s significantly low, it’s at 42 percent and to not bring a state of crisis to that and a sense of urgency to what we can do to better those rates,” said Johnson. “The regular rates are 84 percent that’s a huge gap! So how can we start to look at it differently and that can we start today to improve those rates.”
We asked why she felt compelled to run for the seat.
“I have a nine-year-old in the school district, and I just want the best education for her and all kids I really do. I’ve worked in the school system for the last 10 years I recognize and understand what it takes to function in a school and all the needs that are required to have a successful day,” said Johnson.
Johnson says she will work to make sure that every student receives the best possible education and that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.
“I’m excited to be on a board and not a singular person to have the knowledge of the folks who have been on, especially those who have been on for a while that experience is going to be really helpful for me stepping into it,” said Johnson.
She is currently the director of leadership and culture at the South Dakota Afterschool Network. She takes the seat vacated by Cynthia Mickelson, whose term ends on June 30th.