Naugle was there at the right time

 In all the craziness of the past year in dealing with a dangerous virus, there is no one in the community whose decisions affected more people than Custer School District Supt. Mark Naugle. Decisions about distance learning vs. in-school classes affected students, teachers, parents and employers in the Custer School District.
Naugle sought input from staff and school board members along the way, which is what a school superintendent should do. The fact that we got students back in classrooms in August is a testament to that leadership.
For these good decisions, and for many other reasons, Supt. Naugle has been chosen as the Custer County Chronicle’s 2020 Citizen of the Year.
In challenging times, good leaders emerge and Naugle was, and is, a good leader. He was just what the school district needed when COVID-19 reared its ugly head in the community earlier last year. We are glad he was here when we needed someone like him to lead.
When distance learning became a real possibility early last year, Naugle got together with teachers to come up with a plan for students to continue their education outside the classroom. This was made a lot more feasible because of Naugle’s previous efforts and foresight to secure laptop computers and tablets for every student in the system, not just seniors.
So when Gov. Kristi Noem closed all schools in March, our school district was probably better prepared than most to continue with online classes. However, it soon became apparent that there were significant communication problems between students and teachers, often because not all students bought into the program. It became a frustration for  teachers, students and parents.
While other school districts in the state cancelled graduation ceremonies altogether last year, Custer came up with a plan to hold such a ceremony outdoors at the football stadium in late June. The weather cooperated and seniors had their graduation.
It bears mentioning that while all this “rolling with the punches” was going on with the virus, the district was in the middle of a big $13 million addition project at the Hermosa school. Naugle and the school board’s building committee proved they could multitask by keeping this important project for the district on track.
A back-to-school plan was led by Naugle during the summer months and students were back in their classrooms in August. More normalcy was achieved with football and volleyball resuming in the fall and wrestling and basketball after that. Again, this did not happen in all school districts.
For these reasons, and for others, like leading the charge to implement the TeamMates adult-student mentoring program in Custer, the first in the state, we believe Naugle is more than worthy of our annual Citizen of the Year award.
The Custer High School graduate has made us all proud! Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat!
Congratulations, Mr. Naugle!

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