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SD Department of Education
Nov. 2020  
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SECRETARY’S COLUMN: JAG-SD going strong with new state director in place

During the 2020 legislative session, you may recall an exciting development that occurred related to South Dakota’s Jobs for America’s Graduates program. It was officially placed into statute, a special donations fund was created, and the position of state JAG director was established within the Department of Education.

JAG has been in South Dakota since 2009-10 when the Wagner Community and Andes Central school districts piloted the program. I have had the opportunity to hear several JAG students tell their stories, and it’s a deeply moving experience. In fact, Governor Noem has been equally moved, and it was she who led the push for the JAG legislation after visiting with Wagner students last fall.

If you are unfamiliar with this successful program, the goal is to empower students who face significant personal barriers to educational success. The curriculum teaches leadership, employability skills, and prepares students for graduation. But it doesn’t end there. Teachers in the program are called JAG specialists, and they stay in touch with graduates for one year after graduation to ensure students get connected to postsecondary education or employment.

Wagner and Andes Central have been JAG leaders from the beginning, and I commend them for their dedication to this powerful program. With that leadership, however, has sometimes come a lot of pressure, as other districts have turned to them for guidance in establishing their own programs.

That is why I’m so glad our new state JAG director, Beth Schneider, is now in place and has already been able to relieve some of that pressure, so that all schools in the program can more effectively focus on what they do best: working with their local students. There are currently JAG programs in five South Dakota school districts: Andes Central, Bennett County, Smee, Todd County, and Wagner Community.

In just her first few months with the department, Beth has established regular all-JAG-SD meetings and a professional development schedule for teachers, giving them space to collaborate and learn from each other. She has visited participating schools and is regularly communicating with administrators at the five districts.

JAG students are participating in and preparing for several projects this fall, including a video production contest and a virtual career development conference. JAG-SD will also be represented with a Christmas tree at the Capitol this winter.

Of course, one of the most exciting things about all of this is the opportunity for the program to expand to more districts. I hope you’ll visit the department’s JAG-SD webpage to learn more and reach out to Beth if you would like more information.

Thank you for everything you do for South Dakota students. Stay safe and healthy.


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