Editor's note: This is part of a multi-part series on the 2024 city and school board election. Stay tuned for more on the candidates views on various issues – oh, and make sure you're registered to vote by March 25 or, like, what is this all for?

Simplified: Five people are vying for two open seats on the board that oversees the largest school district in the state. Sioux Falls Simplified sat down with all five candidates to get their take on issues relevant to local schools.

Why it matters

  • Teacher pay was a topic that came up quite a bit in the 2024 state legislative session as lawmakers looked to ensure funding increases for schools ultimately benefitted teachers. Gov. Kristi Noem earlier this month signed a law setting a minimum teacher salary at $45,000 statewide.
  • South Dakota has historically been ranked last (or very close to last) in the nation when it comes to teacher pay.

A quick note: Candidates are listed in the order in which they appear on the Sioux Falls School District election page. Answers are edited for length and clarity.

How would you approach decisions about teacher pay in light of recent statewide conversations?

Marc Murren: "Probably 80% of our budget is salaries – it's a big deal. I would like to pay our teachers more, there's no question, but obviously now that I'm on the board I've learned some things about how that works.

  • But I would like to see us do everything we can to increase salaries for our employees, including teachers."

Gail Swenson: Swenson said she feels the district will be in good shape when it comes to the new minimum salary, but she's concerned about smaller districts. She also noted the importance of salaries as both a way to retain good teachers and recruit new ones.

  • "Pay is always a sign of respect. I want to put as much money on salaries as I can. I'm also very concerned about education assistants – we've really got to take a look at their pay."

Bobbie Tibbetts: "It's incredibly important because you look at both retention and recruitment. We've got to be able to continue to put funds towards those on the front line."

  • Tibbetts also noted she has met with the district's Business Manager Todd Vik to get historical data on teacher pay.
  • "I'm not going to pretend I'm a content expert, but I've taken the steps to learn."

Stuart Willett: Willett said he'd like to identify the top 10% of teachers based on whose kids show the most improvement and who is most effective.

  • "I would use them to consult and say, what do you guys think. These teachers are going to be my advisors."

Patrick Starr: "Teacher pay is about more than just money. It's (also) looking at behaviors to make sure teachers want to continue to teach. Pay is the final straw."

  • Starr called for added supports to help teachers deal with increasing student behaviors in classrooms.
  • He also called legislative discussions about state funding increases not going to teachers a "distraction," noting that it essentially was picking a fight between teachers and school boards.