Press "Enter" to skip to content

Rookie Rep. Borglum Touring State to Talk About Rural Education Reforms

I’ll give rookie Representative Scyller Borglum (R-32/Rapid City) this: she’s showing more off-Session initiative than most South Dakota legislators. Instead of waiting for the Executive Board to convene and interim panel to study her legislative priorities (and I should note Borglum submitted no proposal for an interim study and cast no vote on the interim studies that were proposed), Rep. Borglum is launching her own one-woman interim study of rural education:

State representative Scyller Borglum of Rapid City is taking a trip around the state to have one-on-one conversations about how to make education in rural areas more accessible.

Representative Borglum wants to help high school students in less-populated areas have a better shot at going to post-secondary schools. She plans to have one-on-one sessions with educators, students and parents around the state to find ways to improve rural education accessibility.

But now Borglum thinks adding more educational technology, like online classes, could take it to the next level. She wants to find new ways to track students’ progress to help them on an individual level [“State Representative Scyller Borglum Tackles Rural Education with New Initiative,” KOTA-TV, 2019.04.01].

Rep. Scyller Borglum discusses rural education with Colome superintendent Ryan Orrock; from BorglumSD Facebook page, 2019.04.02.
Rep. Scyller Borglum discusses rural education with Colome superintendent Ryan Orrock; from BorglumSD Facebook page, 2019.04.02.

Rep. Borglum has already been out to Colome to talk with their superintendent about rural education needs. She also combined the trip with a stop at the Tripp  County Lincoln Day Dinner. Hmm… could this rookie Representative be laying the groundwork for a statewide campaign à la Jason Ravnsborg? (Key difference: talking education, Borglum will be talking about practical problems she can act on from the office she holds, not simply stoking fear and prejudice about Muslims the way Jason Ravnsborg did) Dare we for a Borglum primary challenge in 2022 to our overreaching and underperforming Governor Noem?

If Borglum’s goal is just to see and be seen, the actual policy outcomes of her conversations don’t matter. But if Borglum is on a real fact-finding, policy-developing tour, then we should all look forward to whatever fall report she issues, look for what gaps she identifies, what tools and people she recommends we deploy to fill those gaps, and how she intends to convince her by-turns stingy, distracted, and outright wacky Republican caucus to pay for the innvoations she recommends.


  1. Donald Pay 2019-04-03 16:00

    From the KOTA story cited above, “But now Borglum thinks adding more educational technology, like online classes, could take it to the next level. She wants to find new ways to track students’ progress to help them on an individual level.”

    Rapid City school district had a pilot project on this back in the early 2000s. It was set up to address the needs of some students who wanted to accelerate their learning in a few subjects, or who wanted to learn in a different setting than a classroom. It was a self-selected, very highly motivated group of students, and it seemed to work OK for many, but not so well for others. Back then there was discussion of taking this pilot project and going state-wide, but Janklow axed the money because he thought he knew best. I think that’s when he dumped a lot of money into the co-op system instead of moving forward with our idea. He thought Rapid City was going to market our project statewide and, of course, he wouldn’t have control over it then.

  2. Caroline 2019-04-03 17:34

    I hope Rep. Borglum spends time visiting with the people at the DDN program in Aberdeen. In my opinion, they do exactly what she is talking about. I have known several of the DDN teachers and have witnessed the success of the program in our local school. Often times I have visited with parents in other districts who lament the fact that their students may be forced to take DDN classes. I always tell them the DDN program has excellent teachers and administrators who provide phenomenal oversite. With teacher shortages and the challenge of finding qualified teachers, often times a student is MUCH better off with a DDN class than a poorly prepared teacher standing at the front of a classroom where nothing positive is going to happen.

  3. Robert McTaggart 2019-04-03 17:56

    I will sometimes teach by DDN. I agree that it is better to offer courses by DDN than not being able to offer the courses that students need for the degree.

    Sometimes there are time conflicts with another class or a job, and taking the course asynchronously is beneficial. In particular if high school students are taking college-level courses for dual credit. A lot more university students are also working these days while going to school.

  4. grudznick 2019-04-03 19:39

    I would teach by DDN if requested. The DDN is far reaching, and adds 10 pounds to grudznick.

  5. Certain Inflatable Recreational Devices 2019-04-03 19:47

    Borglum has an opportunity to do something while seeing and being seen. This looks like a calculation to build a resume for a run for guversumthin.

  6. grudznick 2019-04-03 20:07

    She is indeed a very pretty young woman, who wants to see and be seen. She’ll be good at guversumthinin.

  7. Jenny 2019-04-03 20:10

    Jeremiah do your lobbyist group that you represent know [Editor’s note: Jenny proceeded to lodge false allegations against on Jeremiah Murphy, imputing to him comments made by commenter “Grudz,” thus prompting Mr. Murphy’s response below. —CAH 2019.04.04 19:26 CDT].

  8. Debbo 2019-04-03 22:11

    Yeah, —[CAH edit]—Grudz’s behavior is trashy.

    What does DDN stand for? Direct Distance [k]Nowledge? 😁

    I hope Borglum talks to people in northwestern SD too. There’s a lot of empty space with a few families and no schools.

    Are MOOC credits honored on SD transcripts?

    Another excellent educational source is Khan Academy, but I don’t think it offers credit. The classes are very good though.

  9. Moses6 2019-04-03 23:39

    Is she better than photo op thune who talks in circles as usual.

  10. marvin kammerer 2019-04-04 11:05

    i think this woman has a lot of spunk & principals..she showed up with the two ladies from district 27 at the old abby supply store at a gathering of supporters ,i was impressed not only because the 2 ladies from district 27 were from a different party they all made good sense in their talks.she accepted them as equals which is more than many of our legislature.

  11. Jeremiah M. Murphy 2019-04-04 11:21


    Long time reader, first time commenter here.

    A note about screen names – the notion that I am commenting as “grudznick” or under any other name or nickname not my own is best described by the answer to an old Monty Python riddle: “What’s brown and sounds like a bell?”

    In other words, I am not grudznick. I have never commented nor represented myself in any forum as grudznick. I do not comment here or under any blogs using any screen name or alias. Those who suggest otherwise or who attribute grudznick’s comments to me are making false claims.

    Best regards,

    Jeremiah M. Murphy
    Rapid City, SD

  12. Donald Pay 2019-04-04 13:51

    Thanks, Mr. Murphy. It would certainly be out of the norm for a current lobbyist to use a name other than his/her own. I had my doubts about you being Grudz, because the timeline was a bit off from things Grudz has said. I think the real Grudz preceded your first year in Pierre, unless you had some knowledge gained by Mr. Murphy, Sr, and shared with you. I always thought of you as the other Mr. Murphy. Do you have any guesses who the other Mr. Grudz is?

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-04-04 17:57

    Determining Rep. Borglum’s true intentions in her statewide tour are far more important than determining Grudz’s true name. Why is a freshman legislator larking off on her own solo interim study? What do the caucus leaders think of a rookie legislator making this much noise?

  14. Donald Pay 2019-04-05 11:53

    DDN was suppose to solve this issue for rural districts, but there was never as much follow through. By the time this was done, the effects of Janklow’s education funding formula had stripped districts of the means to use the system effectively.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-04-05 12:30

    Indeed! I wonder what solutions Broglum will hear about or come up with that differ substantively from the concepts Janklow was trying to put in place with his prison-labor-built solution 20 years ago. Janklow actually made South Dakota a leader in classroom connectivity. I’d be curious to see what rural needs aren’t being met, and what of those needs can be met with technology that’s not already in place.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-04-05 12:42

    Hmmm… Broglum says she met yesterday with former District 27 Republican Representative Mark DeVries to discuss rural education. “We are thrilled to begin working together!” writes Borglum.

    So does that mean she’s assembling an entire interim committee of her own?

    During his one term in the House (2007–2008), DeVries prime-sponsored 2007 HB 1198 to repeal the minimum kindergarten length passed in 2006 and 2008 SB 194 to establish public charter schools (Boooo!) Hmmm… I am skeptical.

  17. Donald Pay 2019-04-05 17:03

    Here’s an idea for Rep. Borglum. I’ve thought we need to look at students as garbage.

    Here’s what I mean. In the late 1980s there was a developing garbage “crisis.” The crisis had various different manifestations, depending on what size community you lived in. There had been a decade of ignoring lots of issues with solid waste. Large cities were running out of landfill space. Poor regulation was making small and medium-sized landfills dangerous, and when regulations were instituted, landfill dumping became more expensive, pricing out small landfills. Part of EPA’s study on proposed regulation was determining what was the best sized landfill to have that provided the least risk to the environment. Modeling provided the answer. Landfills between 100,000 and 300,000 ton per year were the cheapest and least risky.

    These figures were used in South Dakota and elsewhere to build solid waste systems around a regional “wheel and spoke” system, that incentivized regional cooperation and value-added recycling.

    How does this apply to kids? I’m not totally sure, but I’ve thought for a long time that the system of local districts is not the most efficient or best for students. Maybe a “wheel and spoke system” would be a good way to reorganize education. Maybe it wouldn’t. I would like to see a modeling study of how we can use resources in a better way. Traveling teachers and DDN could be a way to spread resources to rural areas. I think a more regional approach to education might be better for all kids.

    That said, I wouldn’t want to close rural schools, like we closed small town dumps. One of the pluses of small schools is much more individual attention, and that’s better for kids, especially in the early grades. But managing resources on a regional level might be more efficient. How this would work from a governance standpoint is also something that needs to be addressed, too.

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-04-05 21:07

    If newspapers had letters to the editor as good as the comments Donald Pay composes for these comment sections on a daily basis, newspapers would have no trouble staying in business. All this good writing, for free!

    Thank you, Donald, for another interesting policy possibility worth considering.

    Traveling teachers and DDN may be at odds with each other. If we can create good learning experiences online, why put anyone in a car (or a bus?) and make them haul all over kingdom come?

    If there is a case for circuit-riding teachers heading out from the hub to visit their various spokes once a week or for a week each month on rotating residency (or, as we get radical and envision reforms far beyond boring old “do the same thing as always, but put it on the Internet,” imagine condensing courses, having students take just two intense courses at a time for a month, and one expert teacher teaching those courses in person at each site), I worry we might face a challenge in recruiting teachers who want to spend their professional career traveling all the time through empty country, especially in winter, when they could get less taxi-ing jobs in larger districts.

    But let’s think about it: does South Dakota need 149 independent school districts? Do local parents and students enjoy more control and accountability and better educational outcomes from this management system?

  19. Donald Pay 2019-04-07 12:21

    Thank you, Cory. That’s quite a nice thing to say. I get on here and ramble a lot, so I’m like the monkey who writes Shakespeare, though Grudz would have to remind me that I’m an “out-of-state” monkey.

    Does South Dakota need 149 districts? Back in the early 19th century it made sense to have a lot of local districts. I’m not sure it does now. But I would still want a governance system that has elected regional, if not local, control.

    In Wisconsin there is an elected Superintendent of Schools for the whole state. There is no Department of Education appointed by the Governor. It’s a non-partisan office elected in the spring, and it is generally filled by someone who works well with our 400+ local districts. That’s something to consider.

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-04-07 18:25

    I mean the nice things I say, Donald. You would make any number of editorial pages more interesting. Newspapers would do well, to peruse our comment section and glean some good content for those far-too-many days when they have no letters to the editor to print.

    Maintaining local governance amidst consolidation: How about in places where we consolidate three districts or more, every old district becomes a ward and elects two members to the school board. In addition, one member is elected at large. For the first 13 years (one full cycle of kids, from kindergarten to graduation), that apportionment remains the same. Then we reapportion: same number of board members, but only one member elected from each district, the rest elected at large. Keep that system for 13 years. Then redistrict: draw wards for equal population representation, elect one from each ward, the rest at large.

    I’m not wedded to that sequence, just brainstorming ways to transition to the new reality of likely shifting populations. My scheme assumes clean consolidation, without any dissolutions where one district sends its kids to multiple adjoining districts. It also assumes consolidations of relative equals, all combining to form a new district. My scheme would not apply well in a situation where Baltic decides to just send everyone to Sioux Falls and then tries to claim two seats on the Sioux Falls school board.

    I like Donald’s historical perspective. When there were lots more people out in the townships to support a school, less mobility, and satisfaction with isolated one-room schools with one at-best quasi-professional teacher doing everything, hundreds of tiny districts were fine. A one-room, one-teacher school is no longer viable (alas—and I’m open to visionaries who could argue otherwise).

    Given that historical perspective, how about this criterion for consolidation: if a district can’t support two high school English teachers, two high school math teachers, two high school science teachers, and two teachers at every elementary grade level, it’s too small.

    Pure spitballing: I’m saying that two-teacher criterion puts the K-12 student body size around 500.

    If I’m counting the DOE stats correctly, 48 public school districts enrolling over 80% of our public school students had K-12 Fall 2018 enrollments of 500 or more. Webster, Chester, Bon Homme, Deuel, and Platte-Geddes just made it over 500. Baltic, Garretson, Hill City, Miller, and McLaughlin fall short.

  21. leslie 2019-04-07 19:44

    Nicknames? Me thinks it doth protest too much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.