OPINION: World is changing, and so should school district

I hate to see headlines that proclaim that a "crisis" is coming and everything must be tossed to the wind to prevent the end of the world as we know it. But change in the world, mainly cheap and efficient communications and transport, is changing...

Ed Potzler
Ed Potzler

I hate to see headlines that proclaim that a "crisis" is coming and everything must be tossed to the wind to prevent the end of the world as we know it. But change in the world, mainly cheap and efficient communications and transport, is changing the world and us South Dakotans.

The change is more rapid than most of us ever anticipated. As one the original developers of the OSI model (Open System Interconnect: the core of the Internet), we thought that our approach to addressing individuals IVP4) would last at least until 2050. It lasted until November of year 2011. Change is accelerating once again as it did in the industrial revolution of the late 1800s.

Our school system was mainly developed to feed that revolution to create a workforce to move industrial revolution forward at ever increasing speed. The nations of the world rallied and the current school system was developed. While it has tried to change with the times, it has failed to keep up, because social forces have redirected it in different directions. The schools no longer have to provide well qualified citizens to meet the needs of the workforce; they have to provide high graduation rates to the communities so that "no child is left behind." Social graces and skills have to be taught in extracurricular programming, because the home life no longer has the time and/or desire to provide it.

The Mitchell School District is one of the best in the state. I say this with all the pride that I can muster. But our students are now competing on a world platform and not just a local one with a reach within our borders. On April 27, The Daily Republic reported that Mitchell lost 79 jobs located at Verifications Inc. to outsourcing. These jobs will be moved partly to India and the Philippines. Tax dollars (income, property, sales), employment and future security are leaving because other countries have matched or surpassed our ability to provide the workforce with what it needs. This trend will continue until the school systems (local and national) realize the need for change and start to adapt.

The current Mitchell school board and administration have given the local district exactly what it has asked for. At last year's public meeting to discuss finances, the meeting room was full with 44 people attending. One and a half hours were spent discussing budget cuts to show choir and basketball. After those discussions were ended, 40 people left, leaving only the media people and me to finish the meeting. No discussion or interest was shown for any impact that budget reductions might have on academic achievement. The school board will give the community what it desires.


The school district spends $900,000 a year on extracurricular activities and has a 91.4 percent graduation rate. These are indeed what the community desires. But the 2011 district report card also indicated that as of 2009, 22.45 percent of the high school students required remedial help in mathematics and 4.8 percent needed help in English. It is time for the Mitchell School District community to change its priorities for the school board. The community has to change its priorities or future generations of students are going to find meaningful employment harder to find as the rewarding and profitable jobs find their way overseas.

I hope we can change our focus on education here in the United States and Mitchell. I retired because I could no longer terminate headcount (we don't call them employees anymore) and send those jobs to India and Russia. People in Mitchell do not like change, this I have seen over the last five years. But change is happening and whether Mitchell changes or not, the world's requirements for new employees will either include our students or not.

Ed Potzler, of Mitchell, is a candidate for the Mitchell Board of Education.

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