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This weekend, I'll tell you more about the Sioux Falls school board candidates. I've also got a look at a troubling trend of increasing suicide rates in Sioux Falls and, on a much lighter note, a preview of the state's first-ever high school esports tournament. Plus, find some Super Simplified Stories.

And now, news:


What Sioux Falls school board candidates have to say about teacher pay

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.

red apple fruit on four pyle books
Photo by Element5 Digital / Unsplash

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?

See answers from all five candidates here.


As suicide rates rise, here's where to find help and how to be helpful

Editor's note: This story discusses suicide. If you are struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, help is out there. Call or text 988 to get connected with resources immediately.

Simplified: The Sioux Falls Police Department earlier this month released data showing suicide rates went up significantly in 2023 compared to the year prior. It's no surprise to those working in the mental health space, but there is both help out there for folks who need it and ways that you can be helpful in preventing suicides in our community.

two person holding papercut heart
Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

Why it matters

  • Police data shows that 38 people died by suicide in 2023, a more than 70% increase from the year prior, and Police Chief Jon Thum said early data for 2024 shows the trend continuing – also paralleled in national trends.
  • Meanwhile, at Avera Behavioral Health, 2023 saw the highest number of patients on record, Vice President Thomas Otten said. That's in part due to a new addition providing more space for patients to keep up with demand.
  • Its a troubling trend, Thum added, but there are a number of local resources aimed at suicide prevention, including a new toolkit from the Helpline Center designed to educate the community on what happens when you dial 988 – the suicide prevention hotline – and how to approach conversations about suicide with the people in your life.
"We just need to figure out how to connect in those moments of loneliness and despair," said Betsy Schuster, vice president of program development with the Helpline Center.

Tell me more


Super Simplified Stories

  • Absentee voting starts Monday. Early voting for the April 9 city/school election starts on Monday. You can fill out a ballot in person at the Minnehaha County Administration Building from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and on Saturday, April 6, from 8 a.m. to 12 Noon. You can also request an absentee ballot by mail by submitting an application to the County Auditor.
  • Register to vote. Want to vote in the city/school election you've been hearing me talk so much about? The deadline is Monday. Check your voter registration status and learn how to register here.
  • Bikes for kids. The Sioux Falls YMCA Camp Leif Ericson is looking to purchase 20 bikes to use with kids during summer camps. They've already secured funding for seven. You can learn more and donate here.


The next big high school sport? Video games.

Simplified: South Dakota's first-ever esports state tournament takes place this weekend, and it'll be a fully sanctioned sport starting in the fall. Sioux Falls Simplified checked in on what's happening locally with this emerging sport.

Why it matters

  • Esports are video games played competitively – often with an audience – and globally it's become a billion-dollar industry.
  • While global tournaments can rival the Superbowl in terms of viewership, there's also an increasing desire for esports at the high school level. South Dakota ran a pilot program for high school esports this year that included 20 schools with plans to fully sanction the sport in the next school year.
  • In Sioux Falls, there are 20 students on the high school esports team, and Coach Jonathan Halleen said his team works together just like kids would in any other sport.
"You don't think of football as just some stupid game – it's something the kids put so much time and effort into that they can carry through their lives," Halleen said. "That's what I think esports can truly become for a lot of kids."

How do esports work?


More Simplified Stories

Stuff to do: March 20-26
Here’s a look at what’s happening this week.
What candidates have to say about the 2050 vision for the Riverline District
Mayor Paul TenHaken last month laid out a 2050 vision for the Riverline District that includes a new downtown convention center.
What City Council candidates have to say about roads
There are about 900 miles of roads within the city, and that number grows by about 10-15 miles each year.


What I'm falling for this weekend:


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Reach out

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Thank you

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