TCSD Board meets at Okreek

Suicide Awareness Training, Curriculum Review, Facility Condition discussed


OKREEK – In keeping with the Todd County School Board’s decision to hold some of its meetings in outlying schools, the March 29 meeting was held at Okreek Elementary.

In the public presentation portion of the meeting, former Board Member Lavern Lanz complained about some of the procedures the Board now uses.  He said some of its actions are not “as was always done before.”

 He also mentioned a typo in one of the Board Minute documents.

A presentation was given regarding professional development training for Youth Suicide Awareness & Prevention.  Many teens consider suicide and give clear warning signs.  Teachers, coaches and other school personnel are on the front lines of this silent epidemic, and a South Dakota law, which will be enacted on July 1, 2016 requires the training.  Matt Walz, with the Jason Foundation, a Keystone Treatment center, said a two year study shows a 28% reduction in suicides after such training. 

Superintendent Karen Whitney presented a Curriculum Review Cycle, and K-8 Curriculum Guide, to be implemented next year.  It is available for review by the public in the Curriculum Center at the Business Office in Mission.  She also said School Board Policies are now posted on the District Website. 

Elementary School Reports:

Littleburg School (Erin Grant, Principal) – Average daily attendance is 94.85%, Staff attendance is 97%.  With student input, an incentive program has been developed to reward regular attendance. 

Okreek School (Dana Haukaas, Principal) – Student Enrollment is 38, average daily attendance 91.82%, certified staff attendance 89%.  Attendance has been steady and we are making family contacts to address chronic absenteeism.  Okreek families have been extremely supportive and involved.  The upper grades attended the Frank Waln Concert at Middle School. 

Lakeview School (Bobbie Cox, Principal) – Year to date average daily attendance is 94.82%, staff attendance 92%.  Schedules are being changed from previous years to allow more time in reading and math in areas of need at middle school level.  The new curriculum will be a big help for those upper grades.

Todd County Elementary (Bobbie Cox, Principal) - Year to date average daily attendance is 89.24%.  Staff attendance has been a challenge.  Our staff has faced some big issues, with deaths, surgeries, etc.  We currently have basketball, cheerleading, AAU wrestling  and taekwondo available and are adding art and Sicangu Club for the students.  We have partnered with White Buffalo Calf Woman Society for students struggling with domestic violence.  We have more students reading at grade level than before.  Most grade levels are on target to complete more of the math curriculum than before. 

He Dog School (Roberta Bizardie, Principal) – Average daily attendance 88%.  Staff attendance 90%.  The secretary announces classes with perfect attendance daily.  Students are working on “Buddy Reading” to work on fluency with other classrooms.  

Spring Creek School (Roberta Bizardie, Principal) – Average daily attendance 83%, Staff 90%. We are continuing to track student behaviors and planning some incentives for students who make good choices.

Klein Elementary (Dr. Whitney) – Average daily attendance 93%, staff attendance 95%.  Student enrollment is 18.  We visited a Legislative Session in Pierre.  We have a Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting – a permanent part of our schedule.  It is very effective and students never let us forget it.  

Dr. Al Koster’s Quarterly Report  - Dr. Kosters, Federal Programs Consultant for the South Dakota Dept. of Education, said his viewpoint as Technical Advisor, is that Dr. Karen Whitney’s leadership continues to focus on District and Schools “Turnaround Plans” by addressing identified issues important for District improvement.  Support is demonstrated by the School Board on these issues, such as School Attendance, Safety, Alternative School, Lakota Curriculum, Family & Communication, Assessments, Staff Collaboration (CWG), etc.  

“At this point, Todd County has the most comprehensive CWG in the state,” Kosters said.

Discussion was held on the condition of Spring Creek School.  The basement has flooded, the sump pump burned up, the phone and computers are out, and there is no heat, Maintenance Director Tim Cournoyer said.  Staff and students have been moved out of that main building.

Board President Melissa Whipple voiced concerns about the bus route that runs between Todd County Elementary, Middle School and High School.  

“I believe we have to re-think that bus route for next year,” she said.

She also said that traffic control at the Elementary is very dangerous for staff members, who sometimes even have to be out on the highway.  

“I am very concerned for your safety,” she said.        

Board Discussion:

Vice-President Travis Wooden Knife thanked those in attendance for coming to the meeting.

Member Gena Heinert echoed his thanks.

President Melissa Whipple noted that with the end of the school year as well as school board election time is approaching, many rumors are circulating in the District and community.  “Some of the decisions we have to make are hard, but we have to think about what is best for our students,” she said.  “We feel badly about some of those decisions. “

She said the certified teaching contracts were issued early in an effort to recruit teachers before they had applied in other schools.  Therefore, there was no time to also issue the supplementals, which usually accompany the teaching contracts. They will be forthcoming soon.

“There is nothing personal about these decisions and we cannot make it personal,” she said.  “We are not in the employment business, we are in the business of educating our students.”

For details of the meeting, see the legal section of the Todd County Tribune.

The next regular meeting of the Board is Thursday, April 14, 5:30 p.m., Curriculum Center, Mission.  As always, the public is welcome and encouraged to attend.

- Phyllis Littau

TCSD Public Relations

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