Simplified: Sioux Falls Superintendent Jane Stavem is entering her third year as leader of South Dakota's largest school district. Stavem sat down with Sioux Falls Simplified to talk about her goals and what she's working on while students enjoy summer break.
Why it matters
- Stavem has said on multiple occasions that she wants Sioux Falls schools to be the best in the nation.
- Another common refrain in her tenure as superintendent has been about the importance of community partnerships – and she's even hired a new administrator focused on just that.
- As she enters her third year as superintendent, Stavem wants parents and community members to know she's fired up, and she wants their help.
"We have to be relentlessly focused on doing our very best every single day – everybody who's engaged in the work of education," Stavem said.
What are Stavem (and her team) working on?
Here's a list of some of the topics covered in our sit-down conversation:
Under Stavem's leadership, the district has added more teachers to help make sure kids are learning to read between kindergarten and second grade.
She's also overseen the addition of additional staff to help deal with the behavior issues in classrooms.
Earlier this year, Stavem hired former Boys & Girls Club CEO Rebecca Wimmer to oversee community partnerships and after-school care.
- The hope is to create layers of after-school programming in partnership with other nonprofits.
Next fall, the district will start a new after-school program in which an outside organization brings its programming into school buildings, Stavem said. More to come on the details here.
Under previous superintendents, the district has had a strategic plan, typically looking three to five years ahead.
Stavem changed the strategic plan into what she's calling a "continuous improvement plan."
"It's less about start and finish and more about, how are we doing along the way?" she said.
One of the big behind-the-scenes changes at the district is an effort to create consistency from building-to-building through what's called the "multi-tiered system of supports" or, MTSS.
- It's basically a fancy term for an umbrella philosophy that helps teachers decide how to make decisions about what kids need.
MTSS implementation is ongoing.
In the last couple years, Sioux Falls has opened a new middle and high school. Next on the agenda is a new elementary school.
Stavem said this year, the district will be looking at nailing down a site for the new school.
- Initially planned for the northwest side of town, she noted it may be more needed on the east side, which is seeing rapid growth.
What are the biggest challenges she's facing?
Overall, Stavem said she's happy with where things are headed, but things get tough in the following areas:
- Funding. Schools received an influx of money during the pandemic, and as that funding dries up, it'll be up to the district to figure out how to fund some new ongoing expenses.
- State funding. In a similar vein, funding at the state level can be unpredictable. Schools got a 6 percent increase this year, but there's no guarantee state funding will keep up with inflation.
- Transportation. The bus driver shortage was a year-long struggle in Sioux Falls schools. Stavem said if it continues to worsen, more drastic measures – like redesigning/cutting routes – may need to be taken.
What happens next?
It all comes back to that big goal: working to make Sioux Falls schools the best in the nation, Stavem said.
That won't happen without community support, she said.
"Public education is so vital," she said, noting that the community has to continue to value the role public schools play. "It takes all of us working together to keep educating kids."