- Last Updated: 13 June 2018 13 June 2018
Who We Are
The Sioux Falls School District is committed to not only being open and transparent with all our stakeholders, but it’s also a key part of the District’s Strategic Plan to create, facilitate, and foster community engagement through as many channels as possible. This commitment affords the opportunity for community, parents, and students to ask questions, get answers, and provide feedback throughout our daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly work.
Significant pieces of that engagement are done through a small department in the Sioux Falls School District: Community Relations.
Our department consists of seven employees: 1. The Community Relations Supervisor (DeeAnn Konrad), 2. the Community Education Adult Programs Specialist (Melodee Kloiber), 3. the Community Education Youth Programs Specialist (Kelli Fahey), 4. the Community Relations Clerical (Maritza Carrizales), 5. the Website Designer/Developer (Megan Daly), 6. the Communications Specialist (Ben Schumacher), and 7. a Multi-Media Specialist (coming soon). The multi-media specialist position has been changed from a Media Equipment Specialist position previously held by Jeff Little, who recently retired after more than 44 years with the Sioux Falls School District.
If you’re somehow not familiar with the work of Community Education, please check us out. There are classes year-round with local experts in every area from carpentry to kayaking, and from beading to creating culinary masterpieces. Learners of every age are benefitting from summer band programs, babysitting classes, and lessons in languages, art, photography, Microsoft Office products, and many others. Seriously – check out our catalog.
We also offer piano, guitar, and clarinet for students. Drivers Education courses take place year-round for high school students outside of the school day. Our Gold Card club is giving seniors in the community great opportunities to attend sports and fine arts events at discounted prices while also introducing them regularly to the administration, staff and students throughout our schools. And, special day trips to local shopping attractions, as well as international travel opportunities, are also increasing in popularity.
As you can imagine, keeping classes current and interesting for learners of every age, finding teachers, organizing class schedules and locations, creating catalogs, and managing registrations and fees for thousands of satisfied learners every year fills up Melodee’s, Maritza’s and Kelli’s time.
Luckily for us, they’re experts at it, and the new record numbers of registrations and course offerings every year prove it.
Beyond Community Education
Since you’re already reading this, we’d like to invite you to dig deeper into the Sioux Falls School District’s website. You’ll find a nearly infinite well of information: School Board reports, policies, and the rules we use for making/editing them. Curriculum details, the results of curriculum studies. School lunch information, District news articles, blog posts like this one, links for staff and students, busing information, surveys, survey results, calendars of events for all of our 35 schools, upcoming School Board meeting information, Safe and Secure Schools information, how to plan for a school reunion, and so much more. Megan has made this insane amount of information easy to look at and easier to navigate. And as the website continues to add content daily, this is a never-ending job. But, it’s a job our small team tackles with high priority.
When your phone rings with a message from the Sioux Falls School District regarding snow days, upcoming opportunities to participate in meetings, or other events, odds are the voice you’re hearing is either your school principal or DeeAnn Konrad, who is the District’s expert on mass communication. She not only crafts most of the messages you see, hear and read from the District throughout any given school year, she also manages an entire team of people. Ignite magazine, the District’s Annual Report, is mailed to every household in Sioux Falls at the beginning of the school year – that’s her work.
Anytime you see a Sioux Falls School District poster in a school, on a door, or messaging on a billboard, that comes from us. Ben Schumacher manages the District’s social media accounts. He manages the District’s live streaming efforts from elementary, middle and high schools, as well as Howard Wood Field and the Instructional Planning Center. We manage a 24-hour television station on Midco – KLRN, Your Sioux Falls Classroom Connection (channels 20 & 595) and produce thousands of hours of original programming each year for this channel and our YouTube channel. We facilitate up to 30 or more local, regional and national media requests per week – every time you see a news story in a school or an interview with an administrator, it all began with our office.
When brochures need to be made, when postcards need to be sent out, when the Chamber or Sioux Falls Development Foundation need photos of our students, we are happy to help supply them. We broadcast School Board meetings live on TV and live stream them/archive them on YouTube. We create an all-staff session at the beginning of very school year for our 3,400+ employees and design t-shirts for each one of them. We create and send out press releases, take photos at events and in classrooms. We create PSA campaigns, develop community partnerships, facilitate free community education and community engagement opportunities, create DVD copies of events like graduations, and the list goes on. This list also grows every year.
Technology is one of the things that impacts our department significantly. When DeeAnn and Ben began their jobs in the District 10+ years ago, we didn’t yet have a mass-communication tool to instantly reach our tens of thousands of parents via phone, email, and an app. There were no social media accounts, live streaming high school sporting events wasn’t a thing, and we would have never dreamed we could use a free service like YouTube to host our video productions online. And free is an operative word throughout all of this.
When you’re operating an entire educational organization with taxpayer dollars, every penny is scrutinized, and it should be. We are taxpayers, too. And, just like our budgets at home, we expect to get the most out of every dollar we are lucky enough to receive “to educate and prepare each student to succeed in a changing world.”
It’s one of the most uttered phrases in the Community Relations Department. The Sioux Falls School District’s budget process begins in November every year and isn’t concluded until July… and that’s just the formal budget stuff. That doesn’t include strategic planning processes or capital improvement plans or 5-year budget outlooks. It also doesn’t specify that the District is independently audited every single year by an outside organization to ensure the best, most efficient use of dollars.
So our “marketing” efforts almost always include every free avenue we can find. Our partnership with Midco is unique, and Midco’s long-time commitment to Public, Educational and Government (PEG) programming means we have a free channel to share educational shows and inform viewers about everything that’s happening in our schools. “Free” is why we rely heavily on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and YouTube for sharing our photos, videos, and important information quickly with our community. It’s why we have tremendous relationships with local media leaders and welcome reporters and photographers into our schools with constant regularity.
Being an educational institution also has its perks. In 2017-18, and for several years prior, the Sioux Falls School District used The Cube (formerly called High School Cube) to live stream events from our schools, Howard Wood Field, and even IPC. It was not uncommon to get 10,000 views or more of those live streams, especially from big football games in the fall. The nice thing about the Cube was it was free: free for us to use and free for the user to view.
As you might imagine, this business model was unsustainable and, unfortunately, The Cube is no more. But, with so many people counting on us to continue what we started, we knew we needed to find another route.
Back to the benefits of being a school system – YouTube and Google Apps for Education provide a great opportunity.
Already, thousands of schools across the country use YouTube to stream their events, and it’s what we’ve already been using for School Board meetings for several years. In fact, our use of YouTube for live streaming has increased tremendously in the past two years to include all of our graduation ceremonies, monthly School Board work sessions, the Facilities Task Force Meetings, and many other events like the annual 8th Grade Poetry Slam and the South Dakota Poetry Out Loud State Finals.
But those are not the only ways in which we use YouTube. In fact, if you visit our channel right now, you could watch any one of more than 800 videos that have been added since December 2010 – most of which have been uploaded in the past 2-3 years. We have nearly 972,000 total views culminating in 3,031,852 minutes of videos watched on our channel… and these numbers increase daily.
Soon, we’ll be changing our channel.
When we needed to create YouTube accounts for the schools that were most often using The Cube (R.F. Pettigrew, Memorial Middle School, Edison Middle School, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Washington and for our Howard Wood Field location), it was time to rethink our Sioux Falls School District account too.
When we started our District YouTube channel back in 2010, our department hadn’t had as much training in the areas of Google Apps for Education as the people who use it the most, like teachers, curriculum coordinators, instructional coaches and technology integration specialists. So, we kind of made our own YouTube channel by making up a Gmail address and building things from there.
Now, we have the opportunity to use a State of SD and Google approved K12 YouTube account, which kind of makes it completely official.
Unfortunately, that means we’re starting a YouTube channel from scratch. We can’t easily migrate over all our old videos to this new account, and even our photo archives through Google Photos will remain where they are. What does this mean for the viewers?
Not much. You can bet we’ll be sharing and promoting our new YouTube channel HEAVILY in the coming months leading up to the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. We also aren’t getting rid of our old channel whatsoever. Everything that currently exists there will continue to exist there – but now we’re adding a new, official K12 YouTube channel and will be posting all NEW live streams and videos there starting mid-July.
Why do this? Having an official K12 YouTube account will solve a ton of problems for us, actually. Right now, with our non-K12 YouTube channel, it takes some time for our YouTube videos to be “approved for K12” through Google’s filtering process (if they ever get that far). Not to mention our own state and District content filters. Other people at IPC who also aren’t familiar with Google Apps for Education or Chrome can’t watch our own videos on our own website without logging in to their District Google account, which some of them don’t know how to do… because they don’t know they have one and they’ve never had to use it. Bottom line: it will make our videos more readily available to our students, staff, community and other K12 users across the country as well.
It will also mean more free storage space. (Have I mentioned that we LOVE “free!?") We can use this Google account and its associated Google Drive when we need to share PSAs with local media, share photo albums with our community partners, host safety or security videos that aren’t necessarily for the public to view, or store presentations and documents for the many outreach events we have throughout the year. Basically, a very big, free Dropbox account right along with our new YouTube channel.
Let’s go beyond that question to the larger “Why YouTube for live streaming anyway?” Lots of reasons: mainly, it’s ubiquitous. Anyone can watch YouTube from any device. It’s free for us and free for you. It’s got longevity, support, and it’s easy for our schools to use – especially our elementary and middle schools who use it sparingly and are usually streaming with an iPad or phone. It’s constantly being improved, and perhaps one of the most compelling reasons is the closed captioning support for videos.
We want our videos to be as accessible as possible for everyone, and that means having closed captioning available whenever we can. YouTube provides free captions for videos that are uploaded – including all of ours currently. For free. If you were going to pay for this service (believe me, we’ve spent a lot of time looking into it) it would cost a fortune.
MORE THAN THAT – even more than providing free captions for uploaded videos (and yes, sometimes YouTube’s automated captioning isn’t perfect – no system is) they are constantly improving their captions and (and this is a HUGE AND) they are adding real-time closed captioning for live streamed events in the near future. To pay for a service like this would cost far, far more (believe me, we’ve spent a lot of time looking into it). Those reasons, along with real-time video chats for updating scores and interacting with our announcers that will be available on YouTube, are why we went this direction in the first place.
Stay tuned to our website, our free smartphone and tablet app (search Sioux Falls School District), and our social media feeds for much more information about these upcoming changes to our live streaming capabilities. We’ll make sure it’s all front-and-center for everyone to find.
Additionally, changes may be coming to KLRN TV on Midco as well. For decades, Jeff Little has been running a full television station as one person – taking the videos he produces, those produced by Ben and DeeAnn, and educational programs from approved sources and creating weekly programming schedules to showcase our students, staff and programs. The station is constantly showing our own Sioux Falls School District students while also providing them, and the community, with educational programming you won’t find on any other local cable channel.
With a new staff member taking over that role, there may be some programming changes or modifications in the coming months – but just like it will take us time to ease into that job, our viewers will have time to adjust to the transition as well.
We’re also very excited to introduce you to the newest member of our seven-person Community Relations team – we’ll hopefully be doing that early in July.
As always – much more to come!