SD education reform task force begins with an unclear missionPIERRE — Many of the two dozen educators who assembled Wednesday for the first meeting of a state advisory council on school reform said during their individual introductions to the group that they don’t know what to expect. The task force is one of eight panels established by the Legislature last winter in House Bill 1234.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — Many of the two dozen educators who assembled Wednesday for the first meeting of a state advisory council on school reform said during their individual introductions to the group that they don’t know what to expect. The task force is one of eight panels established by the Legislature last winter in House Bill 1234.
The South Dakota Education Association gathered sufficient petition signatures to send the legislation to a statewide public vote in November. Consequently, the legislation is on hold until after the referendum.
State Education Secretary Melody Schopp explained Wednesday why she went forward with the reform task force anyway. She said the legislation requires the reform panel to submit a report by Dec. 1 to the Legislature and the governor. Schopp said there wouldn’t be enough time for the panel to get its work done between the Nov. 6 election and the report deadline.
She told the panel members she will try to present different perspectives during the initial two-day meeting so that the participants can set their own goals and direction. Schopp acknowledged that the general public often has the perception that educators don’t know what they want to do.
One of the Legislature’s directives for the panel is to identify “ideas to improve student achievement.” Schopp suggested the panel members focus on that part during their first meeting. The legislation also requires the advisory council to look at the advantages and disadvantages of initiatives to provide increased compensation to teachers, and to analyze solutions regarding future areas of critical need in the teaching ranks.
“I don’t know, honestly, what will happen,” said former Watertown school board member Fred Deutsch, who’s a candidate for the state House of Representatives. Pierre elementary teacher Paula Weeldreyer said she was pleased by the opportunity to participate.
“Sometimes when you’re a teacher, you feel like things are done to you, not asked,” she said.
Mitchell Superintendent Joe Graves said the panel’s success depends on narrowing the focus. He listed three points: Are student achievement initiatives being implemented? Are they being hindered? What are the results?