Community Relations Changes 2018-2019

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.” 

No-Cost/Low-Cost

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!

Teacher Appreciation Week 2018

Teacher Appreciation Week

A message to teachers from South Dakota Department of Education Secretary Donald A. Kirkegaard:

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has proclaimed May 7-11 Teacher Appreciation Week in South Dakota, and I want to take this opportunity to extend a sincere thank you to all of South Dakota’s teachers. In my brief time as Secretary of Education, I have most enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had to visit schools across our state. You are doing great things for kids in your classrooms, and I want you to know your work does not go unnoticed.

Read more: Teacher Appreciation Week 2018

FY19 Budget Message

The following message from Dr. Brian Maher outlines the proposed FY19 budget, which the Sioux Falls School Board is expected to tentatively adopt on April 11, 2018. Final adoption will take place in July.

After South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard painted a gloomy future in his budget address ahead of the 2018 legislative session, the Sioux Falls School District set to brace itself for his predicted 0% increase in education funding in FY19.  When actual revenues were slightly better than projected, the District celebrated South Dakota lawmakers who found a 1% increase – or $1.3 Million.

Though considerably less than South Dakota law promises (3% or the rate of inflation, whichever is less – which would have amounted to a 1.7% increase), schools are once again called upon to pull up their bootstraps and do more with less while inflation notches higher. This means for yet another year the District is financially limited from meeting the increasingly complex social, emotional, and academic needs of today’s students. 

Despite ongoing funding challenges, the Sioux Falls School District remains committed to the four priorities in its Strategic Plan: Student Outcomes, District Staff, School Climate and Culture and Community Engagement.  The goals of this Strategic Plan must remain a focus at all costs because they keep staff and students moving forward in an ongoing quest to be better than they were the day before.  While working under financial constraints, the District ensures its patrons that course content is more relevant, academic expectations are higher, and there are more pathways than ever to give students choice in their pursuit of a high school diploma.

Proposed FY19 General Fund Budget

The limited funds available for the FY19 Budget have the District moving pieces and parts of its educational programming like a shell game to make it all work.  A 15% slash in federal funding from the US Department of Education means successful programs that were previously paid for with Title I money will now have to be paid for out of the General Fund or be cut.

This juggling impacts many areas of the budget.  A sizeable budget shift began in FY18 with the reduction of six reading support positions.  A recently completed multi-year study revealed students made the greatest gains in reading when they participated in lessons with their classroom teacher.  Therefore, the Literacy in Action program – with a cost of $1,469,409 - was discontinued and the District is exploring other innovative reading strategies to boost scores per goals in the Strategic Plan to have all students reading on grade level by 3rd grade. 

Read more: FY19 Budget Message

Staff Stars

This year, we embarked on another new adventure - celebrating our staff from throughout the Sioux Falls School District through a new video series.

Nearly 3,400 people work for the Sioux Falls School District. We're the fourth largest employer in Sioux Falls. Among these are more than 1,800 teachers, but many more roles need to be filled throughout each and every school day.

The remaining 1,600 people working in your public schools fill incredibly important jobs. Those 1,800 teachers need paychecks, benefits, and their questions answered about maternity leave, health insurance, and the state's retirement system. Custodians clean hundreds of miles of hallways each night with hospital grade cleaners... and that doesn't count the lunch rooms, gymnasiums, auditoriums, wrestling rooms, gymnastics rooms, weight rooms, locker rooms, bathrooms, classrooms and offices they clean every day. Clerical staff manage student absences, parent questions, school-building access to outside individuals, light bulb orders, bathroom supplies, work room supplies and a million other necessities. Curriculum professionals study and evaluate learning materials year-round, in every subject area, to ensure students are learning up-to-date information in research-proven ways. Principals manage staffs of up to 250 people and schools with up to 2,200 students in them. Food service workers serve more than 20,000 breakfasts and lunches each day, and they also provide snacks for programs like Kids Inc and meals for special events like the Gold Card Holiday Luncheon and dozens of other unique events outside of their regular daily duties. Boilers and air conditioning systems need maintenance and repair, acres of playgrounds and football fields need to be mowed, and more acres of parking lots need to be plowed. 20,000 Chromebooks need updates and repairs - as do thousands of iPads, desktop computers, SmartBoards, projectors, and laptops. The networks that supports those machines require constant maintenance and protection from outside influences.

The District employs carpenters, plumbers, and electricians who fix broken tiles in elementary buildings, doors that won't lock, light fixtures that won't work, and pipes that freeze and burst. Staff members closely oversee contractor additions and repairs to buildings, not the least of which are the dozens of changes in school entrances and exits as a part of the Safe and Secure Schools initiative. But there are almost always renovations and repairs happening at schools, especially in the summer: roofs need fixing, basketball court floors need refinishing, playground equipment eventually needs replacing, water fountains fail, sinks spring leaks, and doors with hydraulic hinges need repair.

Our school nurses serve up to 2,500 people each - even during flu season. Our counselors have workloads several times over what is recommended at the national level. There are staff members working to find students internships, shadow experiences and job-placements. Staff members run a 24-hour television channel that's free as a part of your Midco cable subscription. Staff members write and submit the minutes from School Board meetings to the official newspaper and post them, and the full School Board reports, online. The District website you're reading right now was recently made ADA compliant by District employees who are leading the industry in this important endeavor.

Read more: Staff Stars

LHS Band Among Finest in Nation

Lincoln High School Band

On October 21st the Sioux Falls Lincoln Patriot Marching Band competed in the Bands Of America Super Regional Marching Band Competition in Saint Louis, Missouri.  The competition is second largest marching band competition in the United States. The Patriot Marching Band was the only band from South Dakota competing in this competition.

Competing in the event were, 65 bands from 11 states including many of the finest high school bands in the country.   The competition is a prelims - finals format, with the top 14 scoring bands in the preliminary round moving on to finals.

Read more: LHS Band Among Finest in Nation

Inspired LHS Students Create Music, Dance

We're always proud of our students and staff, but sometimes students run with a teacher's new idea and create something beyond imagination.

Sara Klawonn, Chair of the English Department at Lincoln High School, recently challenged her students to do two things:

  1. Pair their heart and soul - their passion - with some aspect of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and
  2. Impress her.

They did not disappoint. In Sara's own words: "This work is why I love my job. All student work was completed outside of class, and it is amazing. Here are a few."

Inspired by the book, Lincoln student Bayliss Hall created an original string quartet composition to show the relationship between Scout and Boo.

Read more: Inspired LHS Students Create Music, Dance

District Growth Continues

The Sioux Falls School District continues to grow. Over last year, the District added 302 students in grades K-12. And as the District grows, it becomes more diverse.

At the most recent School Board meeting, a pair of reports outlined student numbers and demographics. First, the most basic. Growth continues at the predicted pace.

Sioux Falls School District 2017 End of September Enrollment Report last Friday in September

This only tells part of the story. In the last 10 years alone, the District has grown by more than 3,900 students.

Read more: District Growth Continues

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