The Mitchell Lions Club will host South Dakota Secretary of Education Tiffany Sanderson on Tuesday in what is expected to be part speaking address, part question-and-answer session.

The gathering will take place at noon in the cafeteria at the McGovern Library on the campus of Dakota Wesleyan University.

Paul Miskimins, president of the Mitchell Lions Club and a representative for District 20 in the South Dakota Legislature, said the event is part of an ongoing series of guests the club has been inviting to Mitchell to speak on a variety of subjects. The series is being coordinated with the 100th anniversary of the service organization in Mitchell.

Since he is serving as president of the club and also serving in Pierre with the legislature, Miskimins said he has encouraged government colleagues in Pierre to come to Mitchell to address the club on a number of issues, and there will be more down the line after Sanderson takes the dais Tuesday.

“We’re just trying to bring some statewide speakers to our meetings,” Miskimins said. “It’s the 100th anniversary of the Mitchell Lions Club, and because I serve in Pierre, we’ve brought in the majority leader, and the minority leader will be coming, and we’ll have some people speak on the suicide prevention hotline.”

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Tiffany Sanderson
Tiffany Sanderson

The event will be open to the public and is expected to take the form of address as well as a question and answer session, Miskimins said. The club has issued an invitation other service clubs from Mitchell to attend, as well as school officials from the Mitchell School District and other groups.

Education has been a hot topic in South Dakota in recent months. How school districts are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, including some districts implementing mask requirements for students and staff, have been a divisive issue at school board meetings.

Critical Race Theory, a controversial academic movement that deals with racial justice, has met with pushback in the state. Gov. Kristi Noem in July signed an executive order that bars officials for the South Dakota Department of Education from applying for federal grants in history or civics until after the 2022 legislative session, a move designed to ban grants tied to the theory.

There has also been debate about lack of good internet access in rural areas, which can hinder educational opportunities for rural youth. And, of course, there’s the long-running debate on teacher pay and the state school funding formula.

Education is always an important topic of discussion, and finding common ground can be difficult, especially in South Dakota, where circumstances can vary widely between large and small communities, Miskimins said.

Events like the one Tuesday will hopefully foster productive discussion on education topics, he said.

There is no charge to attend the event.