I regret to inform my listeners that I resigned as host of “Jazz Nightly” on South Dakota Public Broadcasting Radio on Aug. 6. I would have liked to have said goodbye on the air but the circumstances of my abrupt resignation on that day made it impossible.
I had contemplated resigning for a long time. While I could publicly disclose at length the reasons for my resignation and the issues and conflicts involved, I have concluded that it would serve no useful purpose at this time.
To all my loyal listeners and supporters over the past 14 1/2 years, I can only thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will never forget you [Jim Clark, letter to the editor, Yankton Press & Dakotan, 2015.08.20].
Something had to be wrong for a radio professional to leave the air with no notice. But Clark himself is telling us “the reasons… issues and conflicts” are none of our beeswax for now.
The Pennington County Commission voted 3–2 on Tuesday to not oppose the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s effort to put the Pe’ Sla prairie oasis in the middle of the Black Hills into federal trust. Moving that land from private ownership to trust status will remove it from the tax rolls. One would think that Black Hills property would add big bucks to Pennington County’s coffers, but when I checked in 2012, the county appeared to be getting $1.50 an acre on some parcels of Pe’ Sla, suggesting that removing the roughly 2,000 acres from the rolls nicks the $86.3-million budget by a few thousand dollars. That seems a small price to pay for restoring tribal sovereignty to a tiny, protected enclave in the Paha Sapa.
Ferebee said he cannot understand why the tribes insist on placing the land in trust rather than leaving it under the tribes’ own private ownership.
The short answer is that tribal jurisdiction and full Native American land status would not apply if the land is not held in trust. Kurt BlueDog, a lawyer representing the tribes, expanded on that explanation by saying tribal history does not include the concept of land ownership. The tribes participated in a land transaction to secure access to Pe’ Sla, he said, but they do not feel comfortable with the concept of owning land they consider sacred. Rather, they view themselves as benefiting from land gifted by the Creator.
For the Rosebud Sioux, acquiring Pe’ Sla was all about rescuing the prairie island from private development and preserving it for the tribe’s ceremonial uses. Federal trust status is the surest way to protect that land from the temptations of Western capitalism and maintain it as a public good for the tribe’s future generations.
All pre-filed testimony was supposed to be in by last Friday, but the Yankton Sioux Tribe asked the PUC on Monday to accept rebuttal testimony from tribal Business and Claims Committeeman Jason Cooke. The Monday motion states that Cooke “became unavailable due to his duties as an elected Tribal official and was unable to finalize and submit his testimony at that time.” Cooke testifies that Dakota Access has not consulted with the Yankton Sioux Tribe about the pipeline’s impact on tribal archaeological resources, recreational opportunities, or safety and law enforcement issues related to the influx of 1,448 pipeline construction workers.
Dakota Access understandably says nuts to Cooke’s late testimony: deadlines are deadlines, and besides, the pipeline doesn’t even cross the Yankton Sioux Tribe’s diminished reservation. Dakota Access also alleges that the tribe hasn’t played nicely in discovery.
Commissioner Gary Hanson said he wants the information. State Treasurer Rich Sattgast, serving as an acting commissioner in place of Kristie Fiegen, who had a conflict, said he had reservations, but agreed with Hanson.
But hey, the rest of you intervenors, don’t even think of setting your calendars back another couple days. Commissioner Nelson is watching you:
Commission chairman Chris Nelson said he “reluctantly” supported accepting the testimony. Nelson said deadlines are intentional — “We expect everybody to abide by that” — and the decision doesn’t indicate the commission will start “fudging” on any other deadlines.
Hanson added the commission doesn’t want the Dakota Access matter to become like some other dockets where people are repeatedly late. “It can become a real problem,” he said. “Folks have a lot of time. It’s not like a surprise they have to do filing” [Mercer, 2015.08.21].
It’s nice to see tribal officials and environmentalists catch a break from South Dakota Republicans every now and then. Let’s hope Hanson, Nelson, and Sattgast didn’t expend all of their goodwill toward local land rights and environmental precaution in this small motion.
Regal Entertainment Group is now searching moviegoers’ bags at its cinemas. Two clips reveal the fruitlessness of this overreactive security theater:
Jeff Bock, box office analyst for theater-industry research firm Exhibitor Relations, predicted the policy will lower the anxiety of theatergoers but could pose other problems.
“Implementing this is probably a good idea,” he said. “But it seems undercooked. How is this going to work? The protocol needs to be defined. Exactly what are they doing and what kind of training are you giving to employees?
“It’s a pretty big thing to ask for 16-year-old employees to search through bags for possible firearms. This kind of changes the duties of a theater employee from making popcorn and sweeping floors to basically being a low-rent security guard. Maybe this falls to the manager of the theater to search … We now have to deal with the consequences of what if they find something in the bag.
“Obviously, all the people who sneak in Subway sandwiches are going to be mortified,” Bock added. “Maybe that’s the Regal ulterior motive. Stopping illegal Milk Duds from getting into theaters” [Maria Puente, “Regal Theaters May Search Bags at Door,” USA Today, 2015.08.19].
On Regal’s Facebook page, backlash came quickly from across the country with some complaining about medical safety issues, and others about conceal carry gun rights.
One woman posted on the company’s Facebook page, “Just returned 2 movie tickets because ticket collector wanted to check my bag for a gun… Didn’t ask to frisk my husband who was also carrying so i guess your policy isn’t flawless” [“Regal Cinemas Now Checking Bags at Theaters,” ClickOrlando.com via KOTA-TV, updated 2015.08.19].
I think going to a movie with a gun in one’s pocket is reckless, but letting a moviehouse employee with no security training rifle through my backpack (hey, I’ve got errands to run, petitions to carry…) and my wife’s purse invades my privacy without really really protecting us from the overhyped possibility that a one-in-a-million gunman will pop in the side door and blast away or that we’ll get caught in some concealed carrier’s crossfire.
Regal has no cinemas in South Dakota—the nearest are in Omaha and Minneapolis—but if our Carmikes and other players follow suit, they’ve given me that much more reason to wait for movies to come out on Netflix… whose stock, strangely, went down 7.84% yesterday as part of a two-week correction. Perhaps one search of her purse by a stranger will also help convince my lovely wife that a 65-inch television really wouldn’t be such an extravagant purchase.
Last May, William Carl Figg was convicted and sentenced for non-consensual sexual contact with an exchange student staying in his home. As of this writing, Dr. Figg remains on the information security faculty and scheduled to teach next week at Dakota State University, teaching two courses (with on-campus and online sections) and advising doctoral dissertations and drawing his annual salary of $114,696.84 (search his name on the OpenSD.gov salary database to see for yourself).
Figg committed the act in question in his home during Thanksgiving last November. Lake County State’s Attorney Chris Giles filed one charge against Figg on April 16, 2015.
Figg and his wife have hosted exchange students in their rural home near Rutland in past years. The exchange-student organization through which Figg obtained his victim checked with past exchange students and uncovered an allegation from another student who had stayed with Figg. The sentencing hearing transcript from May 21, 2015, does not say what that past student alleged.
Figg pled no contest but asked Magistrate Judge Carmen Means to cut him slack and grant suspended imposition of sentence, because he’s a veteran and came to court with a clean record. Judge Means denied that request:
Given the nature of the offense here, I am going to deny the request for a suspended imposition of sentence. My concern is both in lack of taking responsibility, even though there is a conviction here as a result of the plea, the nature of the no contest plea concerns me in terms of taking responsibility for what happened. Additionally, I—I just think that this needs to be on his record for a future reference [Magistrate Judge Carmen Means, sentencing hearing for William Carl Figg, Madison, South Dakota, 2015.05.21].
Judge Means gave Figg a $500 fine and 180 days in jail. She suspended jail time on condition that Figg pay the fine and not break any other laws for one year.
South Dakota law treats Figg’s sexual touching and Wilkinson’s invasion of privacy as equally severe crimes. Wilkinson violated SDCL 22-21-4, which prohibits “Use or dissemination of visual recording or photographic device without consent and with intent to self-gratify, harass, or embarrass.” Figg violated SDCL 22-22-7.4, which prohibits “Sexual contact without consent with person capable of consenting.” Both crimes are Class 1 misdemeanors. Neither crime lands Wilkinson or Figg on South Dakota’s sex offender registry.
But many of those states are changing their policies in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision. That’s the case in North Dakota, where the law allows single people to adopt but specifies that adopting couples must be “husband and wife.”
“It’s simple,” said Julie Hoffman, adoptions administrator for the state Department of Human Services. “Now that gay couples are allowed to marry, they’ll be treated like any other married couple who’s adopting.”
Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio and South Dakota also are changing their practices to allow married gay couples to go through the adoption process together. Some of them said they’re starting to update their forms to make them gender neutral [Rebecca Beitsch, “Many States Still Prohibit Gay Adoption,” Governing, 2015.08.19].
No person may place a child in a home for adoption until a home study has been completed by a licensed child placement agency as defined in § 26-6-14, the Department of Social Services, or a certified social worker eligible to engage in private independent practice as defined in § 36-26-17. Any person who submitted home studies under this section or under § 26-4-15 prior to July 1, 1990, may continue to submit home study reports without meeting the above requirements. A home study shall include a fingerprint based criminal record check completed by the Division of Criminal Investigation and a central registry screening completed by the Department of Social Services. In addition, no child who is in the custody of the Department of Social Services may be placed in a home for adoption until a fingerprint based criminal record check has been completed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for each adopting parent. Any person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor [South Dakota Codified Law 25-6-9.1].
A Department of Social Services official assigned to do a home study could blackball a gay couple for defying God’s will. Another DSS official could delay the central registry screening or “lose the paperwork.” A DCI agent could refuse to process the fingerprints. I assume that Attorney General Jackley would give those officials the same leeway to shirk their duties for religious reasons that he wants to give county officials who balk at issuing marriage licenses to Adam and Steve.
Obergefell v. Hodgesdid not resolve all of the questions gay couples face in adopting and raising children. One of the plaintiff couples in this year’s landmark Supreme Court decision brought their suit based on Michigan’s refusal to recognize their legal marriage as a basis for adopting children, but Obergefell only gave their marriage legal status; it did not directly address whether states can restrict homosexual couples from adopting children. Married couples don’t automatically get to adopt children; they still have to clear reasonable hurdles raised by the state to check their fitness to parent. If a DSS official or DCI agent decides a South Dakota couple is unfit to parent because the parents are both dudes and Jesus doesn’t dig that, we’ll have another court case on our hands.
Attorney General Marty Jackley’s announcement Tuesday that Janice Howe of Harrold pled guilty to one charge of petition perjury sounded darned peculiar:
Charges stem from the circulation and attempted filing of petition sheets on a petition to amend the Constitution. Howe was charged by Complaint on January 31, 2002. The charges allege that Howe verified under oath that she had personally witnessed signatures on the petition sheets when she had not. Howe was arrested in July 2015 on an arrest warrant issued after the filing of the complaint. Two other individuals were charged with similar offenses relating to the same petition. Their cases have been resolved through the judicial system [Attorney General Marty Jackley, press release, 2015.08.18].
Newland tells me he smelled forgery in the sheets Howe circulated for him. He did not include those sheets in the petition submitted to the Secretary of State to place the amendment on the ballot. He did point the apparent forgery out to the Secretary of State’s office and then-Attorney General Mark Barnett. That was the last he heard of the matter.
Thirteen years and three attorney generals later, the state finally busts Janice Howe. What gives? Howe was on the Crow Creek Reservation, which raises jurisdictional issues, but she hasn’t kept a low profile. The state has known exactly where to find her and, even with her outstanding warrant, has authorized her for six years to serve as a quasi-foster parent:
In fact, for the past six years, Howe has been certified by the state social services as a “kinship peer parent,” which authorizes her to have Indian children related to her in her home as a sort of foster care arrangement, her attorney, Bradley Schreiber, told Judge Brown [Stephen Lee, “Crow Creek Woman Gets Plea Deal on 1999 Petition Crimes,” Pierre Capital Journal, 2015.08.19].
Howe’s activism against the state of South Dakota over how Native American children are handled in adoption and foster care situations put her on the opposite side of Attorney General Marty Jackley, Fire Cloud and Adrian said after her arraignment Tuesday.
“I think it’s all political,” said Fire Cloud. “Jackley is just giving her a hard time.”
…“It is Jackley,” said Louis Adrian. “He’s the one who wants to get pay back from her” [Lee, 2015.08.18].
But even without the prospect of odious spin from Team Bosworth (and really, Bosworth’s backers will spin anything any way they want, so there’s no point in trying to check our words to avoid their foolishness), I can’t quite pull the trigger and say Howe’s long-delayed arrest and guilty plea constitute rank corruption in the Capitol. Incompetence, maybe—the suspect lives less than an hour from Pierre, she’s in the press and in your social services documents with a current address, and you can’t catch her on a Walmart run off reservation land for thirteen years?—but not quite political corruption. Howe had more than petition perjury on her record: she also pled guilty Tuesday to forging $13,000 worth of checks back in 2000. The question is not why is the state prosecuting Janice Howe; the question is why Attorneys General Barnett, Long, and Jackley didn’t prosecute her sooner.
I listened to most of the second meeting of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students yesterday (you can too, as soon as BIT posts the audio to BluRTFTS’s Meeting Materials archive). I heard lots of presentations from experts, some questions from panel members, but zero focused, deliberative discussions about how to meaningfully fund K-12 education, the sole question Governor Dennis Daugaard convened the panel to answer.
Dr. Richard Ingersoll flew from Pennsylvania to Pierre to present his thesis, based on national data, that the “perception” of a teacher shortage comes not from a lack of good teachers but high turnover rates. He reported decade-old data that found 30% of 1993 teacher graduates left the profession by 2003 (the rate for new cops over that period was 28%). He said the four leading reasons teachers leave the profession are too little prep time (64%), too heavy teaching load (57%), poor pay and benefits (54%), and too big class sizes (54%). He offered no data specific to South Dakota. He appeared to have done no background research on South Dakota prior to flying in to give his presentation. The single major solution he proposed was teacher mentoring, which South Dakota started with a federal grant thirteen years ago at the recommendation of two previous education task forces.
After lunch, Northern State told the Blue Ribboneers about their wonderful E-Learning program, which teaches about 1,200 high school students, about 3.3% of our grade 9–12 population, with 16 instructors. Extrapolate that 80:1 student–teacher ratio to our entire K-12 system, and we could teach all of our 130,000+ kids with 1,640 teachers. We currently have over 9,300 certified K-12 teachers.
The South Dakota Innovation Lab offered the final presentation, also on distance education. Mid-Central Co-op director Dan Guericke appeared to advocate a model in which schools would share circuit-rider teachers: five teachers in five subject areas would rotate through five schools throughout the week:
Sure. That’ll work.
Just as the Governor didn’t appoint many teachers to the task force on teachers and students, the task force isn’t bringing many teachers to the table. Of the nine experts who spoke to the Blue Ribboneers yesterday, not one is a full-time K-12 teacher. Several are former teachers. Perhaps the panel members should call those experts back and ask, “Why did you leave the classroom?” Blue Ribboneer Jim Scull might do that: he said he’s going to back to Rapid City and ask teachers what they think (bless you, Jim!).
I hate to say it, but yesterday’s BluRTFTS meeting felt like wheel-spinning, not policymaking. The task force has used two of its five face-to-face public meetings for informational sessions that could have been conducted by the personalized and distance learning methods so vaunted by the experts in the afternoon session. Unwittingly exemplifying much of what Dr. Mathiesen said is wrong with assembly-line, one-size-fits-all education, the panelists herded themselves into one place at one time to hear a whole bunch of experts talk. The panelists got to ask questions, but they didn’t get to take advantage of their time together to work with the material themselves to produce the solutions they’ve been charged with producing.
If distance learning is so great, the Blue Ribboneers should have practiced it yesterday. The speakers should have put all their presentations online a week ago. Panelists should have been assigned to review all of those materials (and more that’s been available since before BluRTFTS launched, like SDBPI’s research on K-12 funding in South Dakota and ASBSD’s Dec. 2014 report on the teacher workforce pipeline) and come to this week’s meeting prepared for constructive discussion of K-12 funding policy responses. (Once we hit Ingersoll, discussion of actual K-12 funding almost disappeared.) Instead, we’ve burned up two of the five available meeting times and a lot of mileage and meal money for panelists and presenters, and all we’ve gotten in terms of practical policy direction are the vague hints of things to come from panelists’ one-minute closing thought-sharings.
The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students has yet to do any real work in public, and they’ve got darn little time remaining for that work. Yesterday’s Blue Ribbon K-12 task force meeting felt like a dog-and-pony show, a series of presentations chosen by someone behind the scenes to provide the basis (see Daugaard chief of staff Tony Venhuizen’s summary of the day’s meeting: retention, not recruitment, is the problem, and distance education is vital) for a policy package that’s already drafted and waiting for distribution to the members at their final meeting.
Blue Ribboneers, it’s time to knock off the slideshows and get to work. At your next meeting on September 9, we’d better see an agenda for action. We’d better see task force members discussing the knowledge they’ve gathered from their research and conversations with teachers and other experts (all conducted before the next meeting, please) and translating that knowledge into a variety of practical policy proposals. We’d better see signs that this task force exists for a purpose greater than delay and rubber-stampage.
This traces back two decades to then-Gov. Bill Janklow’s decision to wire the schools across South Dakota for Internet capability and capacity. The task force likely will consider at some point in the next two months whether to recommend incentives for school districts to use technology to receive more distance courses and to share their teachers with other school districts in subjects where there are needs.
…It’s also worth noting that current state Education Secretary Melody Schopp, a former teacher and a former school board member, began her career with the state department as part of the “wiring” wave of personnel during the Janklow initiative [Bob Mercer, “Today’s Blue Ribbon Meeting,” Pure Pierre Politics, 2015.08.19].
I’m not aware of any rigorous studies comparing the effectiveness of distance education with traditional face-to-face teaching in South Dakota’s K-12 system. Readers, I welcome your submission and debate of relevant research on whether kids learn as much and as well from online lessons as from in-person teachers.
But I’ll ask you to consider this question: is the only solution to South Dakota’s teacher shortage to reduce the number of teachers? Do we serve our children best by reducing the number of adults actively participating in their upbringing? Tune in today, and perhaps we’ll hear what South Dakota’s education experts think.
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New Angus may not need to look for a new marketing director. Aberdeen city commissioner Laure Swanson used to direct marketing for doomed Northern Beef Packers. Commissioner Swanson appears to be doing the same job, at least unofficially, for New Angus, the corporate team charged by buyers White Oak Global Advisors with resurrecting the Aberdeen beef slaughterhouse from failure. After a quiet on-site meeting with New Angus, Swanson assures us the beef plant is on the right track:
“The tour gave me a lasting impression that this is a committed company, with all indication of making it a viable and sustainable beef plant whether White Oak continues to run it or they sell it,” Swanson said in emailed comments.
She said the internal infrastructure upgrades are impressive.
…Swanson said she left the tour with the impression of better communication from top management, which consists of representatives of the beef industry. She said the plant now has access to its own financial resources as opposed to having to rely on assistance from the state. And, she said, New Angus has a certified water treatment engineer on staff [Elisa Sand, “New Angus Beef Plant Looking for Employees,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.08.19].
Commissioner Jennifer Slaight-Hansen also came away all positive about New Angus’s prospects:
“I found a facility that’s making major improvements to meet the needs of their customers,” said Councilwoman Jennifer Slaight-Hansen, who recently toured the plant with Councilwoman Laure Swanson [Sand, 2015.08.19].