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SD Department of Education
Jan. 2021  
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SECRETARY’S COLUMN: Wishing you a great 2021

I hope you were able to get some well-deserved rest and relaxation over the holiday break and are ready to start 2021 refreshed. COVID-19 mitigation measures will continue to be a significant focus for you and your district, but with vaccines becoming more widely available, this is certainly a time for renewed hope and optimism.

I stepped into the role of Secretary of Education on Dec. 9, and I’m looking forward to working with all of you.

To tell you just a bit about myself, most recently I served as a policy advisor in Governor Noem’s office, where my portfolio included K-12 education, higher education, and workforce development. From 2009-2017 I worked for the Department of Education, leading our Division of Career and Technical Education, so returning as Secretary feels a bit like “coming home.”

Thank you for your tremendous work and leadership this school year. The last 10 months have underscored the many important roles that our schools play for our communities, in students' academic and social lives, and for our families.

I'm certain that the number of easy days since last March have been few, but you've done incredible work to mitigate the impact of the virus in your buildings. You have cheered on your teachers and staff. And you figured out how to piece together all sorts of things, like school meals, when supplies have been unreliable.

You've stood tall as pillars of strength and hope in your communities. Leading a school is underappreciated even in the best of times. I'm sure that it's felt like a lonely place over these last months, but I want you to know that I'm grateful for you. I've watched you and cheered you on. For everyone who may have forgotten to say it, thank you.

For those of you I haven't had a chance to meet yet or work with closely, I look forward to connecting with you soon. And for those who have been in regular communication, keep the calls, the texts, and the emails coming. I'm always interested in your ideas and your perspective.

In the short term, my priorities are to support your work in an atypical school year, to prepare for the legislative session, and to get familiar with the details of what's in motion here at the department.

Beyond that, my focus will be in three areas:

  1. Student success: Strong academic foundations and real-world experiences that prepare them for success beyond high school.
  2. Educator excellence: Excellent leadership and excellence in the classroom.
  3. Transparent, effective systems: Continually improving South Dakota’s K-12 education system so that taxpayers appreciate the investment that they're making, and school boards and parents have information to make decisions with confidence.
I’m optimistic about the year ahead. Have a great 2021!


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