The Associated Press
Argus Leader, Sioux Falls: Oct. 8, 2012
University dropout rate hurts state
College recruitment is a tough job in South Dakota these days.
Besides getting kids to sign up for classes and choose a dorm, now the focus includes retention more than ever. State universities are working to bring freshmen back as sophomores, and in the early stages of the efforts, they're losing ground, slightly.
The state's six public universities have focused on helping students feel that they belong on campus and can get academic or social help when they need it. The universities have new software to earlier identify at-risk students, require seminar courses to help freshmen get acquainted with campus and have overhauled the way they help struggling students with math courses. It's all part of the retention effort, which leads to a higher graduation rate.
So far, the average number of freshman students who return as sophomores is 72 percent, the same as last year. The system overall, which accounts for students who transfer to other regental universities is 75 percent, dropping a percentage point from a year earlier. Results are mixed among the schools, as well. For example, Black Hills State University made improvements from 59 percent last year to 65 percent this year. The University of South Dakota, on the other hand, saw its rates fall from 78 percent last year to 75 percent this year.
We don't have an easy solution to help solve the problem but applaud the Board of Regents for looking seriously at the reasons behind the state's dropout rate. The regents thinks retention is so important that they are considering awarding schools bonuses for doing well. Student success not only helps the six schools but also provides a well-educated and trained people for the state's work force.
We would like to see the regents continue to lead to turn the problems around and bring all of the state's public universities into an era of retention success. The state needs to continue to aggressively pursue reasons behind the dropout numbers and look at multiple solutions to help students stay in college in order to be prepared for professions that can raise their standard of living and quality of life.
That's important on an individual level and for the entire state.
Watertown Public Opinion: Oct. 11, 2012
Part of the process
South Dakota is getting ready for two executions in the coming weeks. Barring last-minute legal twists involving inmates Eric Robert and Donald Moeller, both of whom have said they're ready to die, South Dakota will carry out the final steps in its death penalty process for the first time since 2007 when Elijah Page was executed for his role in the torture and killing of a 19-year-old man seven years prior. He, too, asked to die. That execution was the first in the state in 60 years.
This month Robert and Moeller are scheduled to meet a similar fate; Robert for killing a prison guard during a failed prison break and Moeller for kidnapping, raping and murdering a 9-year-old girl. Robert is scheduled to die sometime next week and Moeller two or three weeks later.
There are no concerns in either case about the possibility of executing an innocent man, which may have happened in other states around the country. Both men have admitted their guilt, both have said the penalty is just and both are ready to die. And a lot of people believe they should die for the crimes they committed. It's tough to argue with their reasons for thinking that way and yet there is still something about the process that bothers a lot of people.
Perhaps it's the clinical nature of the execution process. Walking someone down a hall to an enclosed room; laying them down on a gurney and strapping them to it, and inserting the needle — or needles — into the condemned man's arm to administer a lethal dose of a controlled substance. Outside the room are witnesses selected to watch the execution. They are there for a variety of reasons; either to cover the story for the media, to see justice done for the victim's family or to make sure the proper rules and protocols are followed. It's a precise process and something Robert and Moeller both want to happen.
And yet many of us wonder, both supporters and opponents of the death penalty. The guilty are gone and so are the victims yet the grief the crimes caused still lingers. Nothing will ever bring the dead back or completely eliminate the grief. Those are absolutes that cannot be changed.
But many people wonder if events like South Dakota will experience in the next few weeks will have an impact other than on those involved. Will anything really change? Will crimes like these become obsolete??Will the deaths of these two deter others from committing similar crimes? In the end we may not get whatever answers we are seeking but the questions raised are worth thinking about. Like everything else in the death penalty, it's all part of the process.
The Daily Republic, Mitchell. Oct. 9, 2012
If not in rural SD, where?
Aurora County is on the hook for a $1.2 million payout to farmers who say the county inappropriately thwarted their efforts to expand their dairy business.
In Hanson County, residents this year successfully stalled a planned dairy that would have been built north of Alexandria.
Things sure have changed in the world of agriculture, and we're just not sure where we stand as 21st century farming gets under way.
We are certain of one thing: Big ag business on the great and heretofore wide open prairies could be in trouble.
In Aurora County, the farmers — members of the Thompson family — claimed successfully that a 1998 zoning ordinance adopted by the county and the county's later 2001 denial of a building permit inappropriately prohibited their business plans.
Recently, the settlement amount was reached, and Aurora County taxpayers — not the insurance company, thanks to county officials' failure to provide timely notice of the litigation — will pay the settlement through the aid of bonds.
In Hanson County, backers of a controversial dairy pulled back their request for a water permit. That move came after staunch opposition against the dairy, mostly from residents in Hanson County.
Today, we aren't taking sides. We understand that people get nervous about large development, and especially in their own backyards. And once those big projects are built, they aren't going anywhere.
Neighbors have a right to be edgy.
But both of these cases tend to show that future development of large agricultural operations may be in jeopardy, since county officials and rural residents alike are showing trends of fierce opposition.
Today, our only question is this: If farmers, ranchers and rural developers cannot operate their businesses in the country and once appropriate rural areas, where can they do it?