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Good News: Noem Picks Practicing K-12 Superintendent as Education Secretary! Bad News: It’s Joe Graves.

For the first time in her four years as Governor, Kristi Noem has pulled someone directly from K-12 education to serve as Education Secretary.

I’d be excited if it weren’t long-standing Republican flack and crony Dr. Joseph Graves:

Joe has served as Superintendent of the Mitchell School District since 2000. Before that, he served as superintendent of several school districts in Iowa between 1991 and 2000. He began teaching in 1986.

“I am humbled by Governor Noem’s confidence in me,” said Joe Graves. “I have observed the positive change Governor Noem has made in our school systems up close as a Superintendent. Now, I am excited to play a more significant role in reforming our schools and raising the bar for what students and teachers can both achieve.”

Joe has a Master’s in history from the University of South Dakota; several Education Administration degrees from Drake University; a teaching certificate from the University of Iowa, and a B.S. in political science, psychology, and sociology from South Dakota State University. He was awarded “Educational Advocate of the Year” by the School Administrators of South Dakota in 2018. He was also awarded “Administrator of the Year” by the South Dakota Music Educators Association in 2018. He has been published in numerous education journals [Office of the Governor, press release, 2023.01.03].

“Positive change Governor Noem has made in our school systems”? Seriously? Like what? She has talked about improving civics education but hasn’t brought any real change to classrooms on that front or even demonstrated that our schools aren’t already doing plenty to promote civics. The only major change she has in the pipeline are the pending radical Hillsdale social studies standards, which have met with nearly universal condemnation from practicing educators as age-inappropriate, pedagogically unsound, and harmful to South Dakota students. Noem has ignored real educational issues and used the schools into an ideological battleground.

While superintending in Mitchell, Graves skirted a moonlighting clause in his contract to pocket $157,500 to manage a federal grant from the fatally corrupt Mid-Central Educational Cooperative. On public policy, Graves supported the worst education proposal of the Daugaard Administration, the destructive plan to impose merit pay on teachers and terminate continuing contract protections that voters rejected with a 33%–67% referendum vote. Instead of fighting for teachers, Graves has made excuses for low teacher pay and for Governor Mike Rounds’s diversion of federal dollars intended for schools to his desperate effort to plug state budget holes. Graves has from his public office denigrated the public school system and promoted private education.

Noem’s previous Education Secretary was a practicing bureaucrat, Tiffany Sanderson. Before that, he put Republican chum and relatively short-experience college professor Ben Jones in charge of K-12 education. Graves can at least say he has gone to work in a public K-12 school building for most of his career. But on state education policy, Graves will be, as he has for the past several years, a loyal toady of the corrupt SDGOP machine. His appointment by Noem, while not an unmitigated disaster, promises no improvements for K-12 education in South Dakota.


  1. M 2023-01-04 06:53

    Clearly, Noem is adding to the demise of the public education system in S.D. Like many Republican governors across the country, she now has 4 years to finish it off, promote religious, charter, and private education, and fund them with public school monies. This idiot Noem appointed will lick her boots, shine her saddle, and kiss her ass. Goodbye teachers…….go to Arizona where their legislature is close to raising teachers’ salaries by $10,000 a year. I may even apply as they’ll welcome some of us retired social studies teachers with open arms, science-based curriculum, and a little respect.

  2. Donald Pay 2023-01-04 08:57

    “I have observed the positive change Governor Noem has made in our school systems up close as a Superintendent.” If it takes that sort of hallucinatory rim job to earn a Department Secretary position in the Noem Administration, Graves obviously exceeds expectations. The destruction of South Dakota public education is at hand.

  3. P. Aitch 2023-01-04 09:59

    Of all the mistakes being made by your Governor, the response by teachers is the most organized. Thank goodness!

  4. All Mammal 2023-01-04 13:13

    Noem blamed the January 6th insurrection on poor civics education in America. She followed that up by passing laws in SD to prohibit civics learning and federal, private, or any outside contributions to civics education. Schools were instructed to not ask for or receive so much as a pamphlet in regards to civics teaching materials.

    Bottom line is Governor Noem gets off on stroking the pedophile bones of all the creeps she puts in charge of our state’s social services. She is a groomer and I don’t mean brushing her pony’s tail. Gubner Pedo-boner-stroker.

  5. 96Tears 2023-01-04 14:31

    Joe Graves and Rick Melmer were two of the cronies found supping at the trough in the MCEC scandal that followed the violent deaths of the Scott Westerhuis family and the still missing mysterious safe with its records. The Gear Up scandal and the EB-5 scandal had two things in common: Violence and zero oversight of money that was stolen or misused. It makes one wonder how many other federal programs are abused similarly and have avoided public exposure simply because someone wasn’t murdered, forcing public attention to the scams. Putting the government money moocher Graves in charge of a state department rings the dinner bell for all his pals to line up again at the trough.

  6. M 2023-01-04 17:19

    Thanks 96Tears! There are still teachers in the system who remember Joe Graves involvement and the coverup. This is not going to settle well with more recently hired teachers once they hear about it. What year was that?

  7. CK 2023-01-04 17:35

    Joe Graves is an arrogant, pompous jerk.

  8. Mark Anderson 2023-01-04 19:51

    So Joe’s going to raise his glass at the bar and celebrate the lies and the necessary subterfuge to turn your little ones into darling little maga Boys and Girls. Get ready for the 50’s again South Dakotan’s.

  9. grudznick 2023-01-04 20:25

    This fellow, Mr. Graves, is one of the best arbiters of the SILT there is out there. This is good news, indeed. We have long needed a fellow who knows that good teachers need to be paid more than average or poor teachers.

  10. Mark Anderson 2023-01-04 20:40

    Of course grudz, but the devil is always in the details. Graves gets to decide, grudz gets to decide. Wonder of wonders.

  11. Mark Anderson 2023-01-04 21:07

    Joe did have the Mitchell students mask up, DeSantis would never appoint him. We are free in Florida.

  12. Rodney Hall 2023-01-05 13:28

    Does Joe Graves have a PhD from Drake?

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