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Letter from the Secretary

SD Department of Education
July 2017  
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look for the DOE booth at Joint Convention Aug. 10-11.
Photo of Shirley Vargas Letter from the Secretary's Intern

Guest columnist Shirley Vargas

Greetings! My name is Shirley Vargas, and I am honored and privileged to be on the land of the Oceti Sakowin. I have the opportunity to serve as a summer intern at the South Dakota Department of Education, as I work towards my doctorate in educational leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

I was born and raised in The Bronx, New York, where I attended public school from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Throughout my schooling, I often wondered when someone like me would appear in textbooks, slideshows, or in a profession other than music or dance. I believed that my language and culture were more than one month out of the school year. However, the lack of linguistic and cultural affirmation and my parents’ insistence on having to "fit in," led me to believe that maybe it was best not to stand out.

My mother is from Peru; my father is from the Dominican Republic, and both experienced racism and discrimination because of their native language, use of English and cultural practices. I found it necessary to enter the education field in order to serve as a role model for other students and provide support to families and communities about the importance of language and culture preservation.

As I began my doctoral studies and heard the powerful voices of Native students on campus, I began to realize that I wasn't alone in my experience, and I had a significant “blind spot” when it comes to understanding the history, culture and education of Native youth and their communities. This realization is part of what drew me to South Dakota.

I am fascinated by the work that has come out of the Native American Student Achievement Advisory Council. Thus far, I have spent some time learning about the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and their goals and aspirations as a way to impart cultural diversity and empower Native communities. I have also learned about the paraprofessional tuition assistance scholarship program, which aims to help paraprofessionals at qualifying schools earn their teaching degrees. I believe there is great potential for leveraging the assets of Native communities to further the achievement of their youth.

Coming from the hustle and bustle of the East Coast to South Dakota, I am struck by the comparatively quiet nature of the state, the wide open spaces, and at the same time, the unique opportunity to be so close to the action.

It is exciting to witness the close connection between state officials and educators. During my first week here, I had the opportunity to travel to the Statewide Mentoring Program Summer Academies in Spearfish and Sioux Falls. Getting to visit with educators who participated in this important program was powerful. I am encouraged by the intentionality of this work to elevate the teaching profession in South Dakota, so that all of our students receive the best educational experience, which they deserve.

There are great things happening here. I’m joyful to play even a small part in it during my brief time here this summer. Best wishes to you as you continue your efforts to ensure all South Dakota students graduate college, career and life ready.

School Finance Accountability Board adopts rules
At its June 29 meeting, the School Finance Accountability Board adopted rules to establish an appeals process and a set of factors that will be used to determine if a school district is recommended for a waiver from their accountabilities as outlined in SDCL 13-13-73.6 [http://sdlegislature.gov/statutes/Codified_laws/DisplayStatute.aspx?Statute=13-13-73.6&Type=Statute]. The rules will go before the Legislature’s Interim Rules Review Committee for final approval on July 17. Find more info on the board’s webpage [http://doe.sd.gov/accountabilityboard/].

Board of Education to hear principal effectiveness rules

After consulting with stakeholders throughout the last year, the Department of Education will propose changes to the current principal effectiveness rules for the Board of Education (Board of Education Standards as of July 1) to consider at its July 17 meeting.

Currently, the three basic requirements for principal effectiveness are as follows:

  • Evaluate principals once a year for the first four years and at least every other year thereafter
  • Evaluation must align to the principal standards, and
  • Include a school growth goal

In short, the proposed changes add more flexibility related to how many domains a principal must be evaluated on; the school growth rating; and whether or not to do a combined professional practice/school growth rating.

The proposed rules can be found, and public comment submitted, at rules.sd.gov through July 13. Follow the “Department of Education” link. Public testimony at the board meeting is also welcome. Questions about the proposed rules? Contact Matthew Gill [Matthew.Gill@state.sd.us] or Becky Nelson [becky.nelson@state.sd.us] at (605) 773-3134.

Board name change
Please note that as of July 1, 2017, the South Dakota Board of Education is called the South Dakota Board of Education Standards and becomes a seven-member (previously nine-member) board.

These changes are the result of Senate Bill 65, which was passed by the 2017 Legislature to follow through on the actions set forth by passage of Amendment R in fall 2016. The bill provides for the establishment of the South Dakota Board of Technical Education to serve as the oversight group for the state’s four technical institutes, rather than the South Dakota Board of Education.

Photo of four teachers at Mentoring Program Summer Program.
Mentors and new teachers gather for Summer Academies
Participants in the first year of the Statewide Mentoring Program gathered in June for celebration and professional development at Summer Academies in Spearfish and Sioux Falls. Pictured above are (l to r): mentors Cindy Froiland and Tammy Steiner and new teachers Sam Schroeder and Christina Claude from the Parker School District.
  • KEVN-TV covers Spearfish Summer Academy [http://www.blackhillsfox.com/content/news/Statewide-mentor-program-aims-to-support-new-teachers-427088283.html]
  • South Dakota Public Broadcasting covers Sioux Falls Summer Academy [http://listen.sdpb.org/post/mentoring-supports-new-sd-teachers]

DOE offering Foundational Reading trainings this summer
To support both the department's reading goals and five-year plan on dyslexia, [http://doe.sd.gov//dyslexia/documents/Plan.pdf], DOE is offering two reading trainings [http://doe.sd.gov/pressroom/educationonline/2017/July/documents/ReadingTrainings.pdf] in Pierre this summer to support foundational reading skills in grades K-3 and to explore strategies to support struggling readers in grades 4-8. Teachers (general, special education and Title), reading specialists, instructional coaches, paraprofessionals and K-8 administrators are invited to attend.
  • Register on GoSignMeUp
    • Grades K-3: July 26, 27 and Oct. 11 [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=10201]
    • Grades 4-8: Aug. 9-10 [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=10202]
Dyslexia Handbook for Teachers and Parents updated
An updated version of the Dyslexia Handbook for Teachers and Parents in South Dakota is now available on the Department of Education website. This handbook update is part of the five-year plan the Dyslexia Stakeholders Group has developed for ensuring school districts meet the needs of all students with learning disabilities.

Read more at http://doe.sd.gov/pressroom/documents/2017/0626-Dyslexia.pdf.
Mentoring. Engage. Encourage. Empower. Encourage new hires to apply for Statewide Mentoring Program
A reminder to districts with late hires for school year 2017-18: There is still time for first-year teachers to sign up for the Statewide Mentoring Program. Kick-off days for new mentoring pairs begin in early August. Find more information on the program’s webpage [http://doe.sd.gov/mentoring].
New Infinite Campus feature to aid districts
Beginning with SY 2017-18, DOE will assist school districts in meeting their requirements under SDCL 13-28-50 [http://www.sdlegislature.gov/Statutes/Codified_Laws/DisplayStatute.aspx?Type=Statute&Statute=13-28-50] by providing the required student directory information to the state’s public institutions of higher education on districts’ behalf. To facilitate this process, a new feature in Infinite Campus will track whether a parent chooses to NOT allow their child’s directory information to be shared.
Upcoming Events

Except where otherwise noted, details on the following events are available at GoSignMeUp (http://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/).

Teacher Observation, Evidence Collection and Feedback Training
July 10, Pierre

South Dakota Education Conference
July 11-12, Pierre

Board of Education Standards
July 17, Pierre

School Library Boot Camp
July 17-20, Pierre
(graduate or undergraduate credit available)

SD-STARS Workshop for new STARS Certified Trainers
July 25, Pierre

Foundational Reading Skills Grades K-3
July 26-27 and Oct. 11, Pierre

SD CTE Conference
July 31-Aug. 1, Brookings

SD-STARS Training Booster for STARS Certified Trainers
Aug. 1-31, online

New to Infinite Campus Training
Aug. 7, Pierre

District Leads/Trainers: Frontline Education Regional Training
Aug. 7, Rapid City
Aug. 8, Aberdeen
Aug. 9, Harrisburg

Administrators: Frontline Education Regional Training
Aug. 7, Rapid City
Aug. 8, Aberdeen
Aug. 9, Harrisburg

WIDA On-Line Screener Workshop
Aug. 8, Pierre

Behavior Training for Educational Assistants
Aug. 8, Sioux Falls
Aug. 10, Pierre

Foundational Reading Skills Grades 4-8
Aug. 9-10, Pierre

New Assessment Coordinators Workshop
Aug. 30, Pierre

Indian Education Summit
Sept. 24-26, Pierre

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