Hill City students a cut above the rest

Carol Walker
Hill City High School students as well as South Dakota students in general, have outscored the nation when it comes to ACT scores. According to superintendent Blake Gardner’s report at the Hill City School Board meeting on Monday night, the national average was 19.5 with South Dakota scoring a 22 and Hill City, a cut above, with an average score of 23. 
Middle school/high school principal Todd Satter commented that students in the district are doing well overall, and according to statistics, they compare favorably with students in schools in the area. This was communicated during a report made at the school board meeting regarding the South Dakota Department of Education (SDDE) testing recently completed. 
Science and English appear to be on track, with mathematics somewhat weaker. Satter said in the middle school plans are in place for a math lab outside of classroom time which has proven to help students in the past. High school students will take a math test prep course. 
When it comes to English language arts, Hill City elementary principal Samantha Weaver said, “Our students can read and write very well. Research and inquiry to think deeper is an area of focus.” 
In mathematics elementary students will work on communicating reasoning and in the arena of science, physical science will be emphasized. Absenteeism is also assessed in the SDDE report. Weaver said she is posting the three classrooms with the best attendance to attempt to improve the attendance in the elementary school.
The board gave kudos to the Hill City All State choir members and cross country first place boys’ team and sixth place girls’ team. Joe Noyes was awarded the South Dakota cross-country coach of the year, and Jared Noyes, the South Dakota assistant coach of the year for cross country.
The longest discussion during the meeting was with Karen Street and Jeremy Duprey regarding a high school coed soccer cooperative proposed between Hill City and Custer. This idea was brought to the board last year, but this year’s proposal was meant to answer some concerns expressed by the board previously.
Street said one area was whether there would be enough competition, but she said there were nine teams the Custer team competed against with more slated for next year. Custer made it to the quarterfinals of the state competition.
Another concern was taking potential athletes away from other fall sports, such as cross-country, football and volleyball.
“We would like to limit the number of kids (from  Hill City) on the soccer team to eight. They would have to work hard and do tryouts,” said Street.
Someone from Rapid City would oversee the tryouts. She believes many of theose interested in soccer are not in other sports in the fall. They have been playing soccer for several years.
Cost was another concern, but Street said there are people willing to support this program financially for a few years when it comes to transportation, coaching and other costs.
“The main cost would be to help them hire another coach,” said Street.
With only eight students being able to play, Rob Timm was concerned.
“I don’t feel right about that. The fairness factor gets thrown in there,” said Timm.
Of those eight students, Carmen Ronish asked if they would get to actually play. She was told there was no guarantee that they would all play, but at least some of the students who would be interested in soccer have played competitively in the Rapid City soccer league.
Eric Lind and others expressed concern over a potential violation of Title IX which is meant to ensure equality for girls and boys, saying, “I would be curious to hear a legal opinion on this.” Gardner will reach out to the school attorney for an answer.
Lind was also concerned about the long-term cost and viability of the program. Street said they would fundraise and contribute for Custer to hire an assistant coach
. When it comes to viability, she did not think there would be a problem.
“There are quite a few parents with kids younger than ours who are interested in this,” Street said.
In addition to Gardner consulting with the city attorney on Title IX, there were a few things requested of Streets and Duprey. They would need to come up with an estimate of long-term costs, a list of other coops across the state and how they operate and bring in the activities director from Custer to talk with the board.
“We appreciate this discussion. We realize we have one perspective,” Duprey said.
Gardner said he and Satter have been meeting with a prospective long-term subs for high school science. There is a possibility of someone with a degree in science who may be able to finish out the school year with the hope of finding someone full time for the next school year.
Satter told the board that there is just one student graduating with a teaching degree in science from South Dakota universities, and he is student teaching at Brandon, where he will likely stay. 
“Mike Perna was the keynote speaker at the CTE (Career and Technical Education) conference in Madison last summer. He stated this generation of students are the first to place lifestyle over career, This is what we are facing,” said Satter.
Timm, who serves as the Hill City delegate to the Association of School Boards of South Dakota legislative action network, shared highlights of the work being done by the network. Just a few of the items they are working on which he mentioned include, a suggestion for K-12 educators to be on the state board, deleting Covid -19 restrictions, encouraging local control of school facilities, supporting the rights of parents and guardians in decisions regarding their children’s education, review of library and school materials, flexibility within the levy for capital outlay and no decrease in property tax without another source of revenue proposed. 
Christine Goodpaster, technology director, reported that K-12 Data Center is offering free security training. Hill City staff has been assigned the training and will be given time to complete it during the January in-service. She also talked about the potential for the school district to receive $88,450 in E-Rate funding. This is a federal program designed to build technological infrastructure such as hardware and cabling. According to Gardner, the program is a five-year allocation that is a 60 percent reimbursement.
TJ Schmidt, maintenance director, reported on the status of the middle school and high school roofs after having TJ McKenzie from GAF of Iowa assess the roof and take core samples.
“They are in pretty rough shape with moisture underneath and hail damage….if you get 15 years out of one of these roofs, that is good. We are on year 22 or 23,” said Schmidt.
After receiving this assessment, the school district office will reject all previous bids for the roof and wait for a new scope report, hopefully by Thanksgiving time. Schmidt said each of the roofs have 20 patches on them, and roofs should be replaced within 24 months.
Gardner and Lind met with Jim Guebels of the United States Forest Service to discuss a well at Ranger field.
“The team decided to consider two parallel plans. A short-term goal is to have a school-owned well to water Ranger Field. A long-term goal is to pursue acquiring Ranger Field,” said Gardner. 
The board approved the resignation of Todd Weber at the end of the 2023-24 school year. He has taught a variety of courses in Hill City, mostly business education, for 38 years.
Travis Eckert and Crystal Wiese thanked the board officially for supporting K-5 youth athletics in Hill City, which includes flag football, football, volleyball, basketball, soccer, softball. They presented the board with a framed T-shirt signed by many of the youth.
Stephanie Doaty also thanked the board for the use of the gyms for the upcoming Kris Kringle event Nov. 24-25. There will be 53 booths and 43 vendors.

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