Letters Facts to digest about Wakonda School

To the editor:

As a teacher at Wakonda School, I would like to give the public a few facts to digest to go along with the fiction that is being consumed in our community.

Due to the nature of my job as a special educator, I have observed the teaching staff and their classes for the last eight years. I feel very privileged to be afforded this opportunity to educate the students with special needs along side their peers. Because of the direct contact I have had with these teachers I feel like I have seen first hand the quality of education received by the students. The fact is, one would have a hard time finding a school that compares to ours.

FACT #1: The student-to-teacher ratio is low, therefore allowing time for more individual assistance and instruction. Yes, this equates with small class size, something some people see as a detriment. The fact is, some states are mandating smaller class sizes as they realize the significance that this can make on a child's education.

FACT #2: Teachers are professionals that spend hours planning lessons that will be meaningful and follow the state curriculum standards. That lesson usually includes a little extra for enrichment, given to those students who need it, as well as a modified lesson for less able students, which, in essence, is three levels of instruction for each skill taught. Not all teachers do this, as it is extra work, but our teachers are dedicated and want each student to be given the opportunity for success and to achieve.

FACT #3: Wakonda teachers are up-to-date with the latest methods and practices in education. They attend classes after school, in the evenings, and summers to continue their education for the benefit of the students. I have observed a variety of materials being utilized in the classroom from manipulatives to technology-based lessons. Our teachers are very creative in coming up with novel ideas to enhance the lessons to make learning fun and insure that the skills taught are retained.

FACT #4: Our teachers work as a team, assisting each other in planning thematic units and cross-curricular projects which sometimes involve different grade levels working together.

FACT #5: Our teachers have high expectations for each student and are willing to do anything to help the students achieve these goals. They seek out assistance from special educators, peer helpers, arrive early and stay late, to help struggling students.

FACT #6: Our teachers CARE about the students and their well-being, providing items well beyond the realm of academics; school supplies, boots, jackets, dry socks, mittens, hats, and in some cases, deodorant, shampoo and soap.

FACT #7: Our teachers take the time to listen when a student has a problem, whether it is a school issue or something personal. They provide direction and support.

FACT #8: Our school has excellent PE, computer, library, music and art classes. We also have a band instructor who sees that each student who has the desire to play an instrument is given that opportunity. Wakonda not only provides the curriculum necessary to graduate by South Dakota state standards but also offers many classes through distance learning. We are fortunate to be able to provide these extra courses that some students may be interested in taking.

FACT #9: Our community is small enough where we know what is happening in it. Special considerations can be given for that student who has lost a family member, or whose mother is away from home giving birth to a sibling. A student does not fall through the cracks because someone was unaware of the problems facing that child.

FACT #10: Wakonda School has continued to score high on statewide and national achievement tests. Our graduates are well prepared to further their education at universities. State Board of Regents tracks how first-year students do at state-supported colleges. In the three years that the Board of Regents has been keeping records, Wakonda is the ONLY school in South Dakota whose students have earned college GPAs that rank them in the top 20 of all schools in South Dakota each year.

If a student finds higher education a struggle, should the blame be placed on the education received in high school? I think not. Perhaps it is a matter of effort, or the lack thereof, on the student's part. I urge you to find out the facts. Call that university professor; find out how many absences, missed tests, late assignments before you go pointing the finger at the educational system that gave your child the knowledge to be able to attend that college in the first place.

I do not understand why some people think it would be best to dissolve this district when it is one of the best in the state. I have worked in larger schools and some comparable to the size of Wakonda. I surely wouldn't want to trade "their problems" for our lack of space problem. We are so lucky to live in an area where we don't have to check lockers for alcohol, drugs, and weapons. We don't have to forbid our students from carrying backpacks to school for fear of what may be inside.

When we moved to this area, my husband and I, as concerned parents, checked out the surrounding schools. It was an easy decision to decide on Wakonda, we liked what we saw. I encourage those of you considering educating your children in another school to spend a day observing, before you make that decision. After all, you are doing this for your child's benefit aren't you? Or is your child just a pawn because you don't go along with our board's decision to ensure the future of Wakonda School and the excellent educational program it provides?

Let's face the facts folks. Wakonda School is doing an excellent job educating our youngsters and provides the glue that holds this community together. Do you really think that dissolving this district is going to keep you from paying higher taxes? I think not.

No matter where our students are educated, we live in a country where education is funded by state and local taxes. That is a given. Do we really want our kids riding an hour to and then from school in the weather conditions that South Dakota sometimes has? Do we really want our teenagers to be driving to a different town for every school related event or have to drive to school to be able to attend basketball, football, volleyball, and track practices?

The fact is this community looks out for your kids here. Who is going to be looking out for them when they are in another community where they will be the outsiders? They belong to this community just as you do.

Before you decide to divide this town any further think of what your child will be losing. Is losing our school really going to be the BEST we can offer? I don't think the facts support this at all.

Stephanie Light


Bridge should honor Lewis and Clark

To the editor:

In last week's Plain Talk, the editor had an excellent suggestion (regarding) public discussion of an appropriate permanent name for the bridge across the Missouri River south of town.

I have been a member of the Newcastle � Vermillion Bridge Committee since the beginning and that name was chosen as a temporary name so the project would get local support.

Over a year ago and again six months ago, I recommended the name "Lewis and Clark Bridge." The suggestion did not go anywhere, mainly because the co-chairpersons oppose it.

Other communities have paid tribute to these courageous explorers. Sioux City has a Lewis & Clark Park, Yankton has Lewis & Clark Lake and there is a Lewis & Clark Trail. The explorers did spend some time in the Vermillion area and I think naming the SD 19 border bridge in their memory would be very appropriate.

With support from nearby communities, adjacent county governments and local historical groups, the South Dakota Transportation Commission and The Nebraska Department of Roads would consider such a proposal.

Paul M. Hasse


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