by Sara Bertsch, for the Mitchell Daily Republic, May 30, 2017
South Dakota’s newest education board is eager to get started.
The South Dakota Board of Technical Education, created under Senate Bill 65, met for an orientation meeting Tuesday at Mitchell Technical Institute — and the nine appointed members were filled with questions regarding their new roles.
Along with the nine members, also in attendance were the presidents of South Dakota’s four technical institutes — Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls, Western Dakota Tech and MTI — and representatives from Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s office and the state Department of Education.
The two-day orientation and information meeting kicked off Tuesday morning with a system overview, and members raised questions about enrollment, graduation outcomes, retention rates, instructor salaries and budgets.
“These are people that are passionate about technical education and ensuring that South Dakota’s employers have skilled technicians that they need,” said Tiffany Sanderson, the director of career and technical education with the state DOE. “They were chosen because they were instrumental in the work to get us to this point, and certainly we’ll rely on them to lead the charge going forward.”
The board officially takes effect July 1, and will hold its first meeting July 18 at the Western Dakota Tech campus in Rapid City, Sanderson said. There will be one more orientation meeting prior to the July start, but local representative and appointed member Terry Sabers is excited to get going.
“The entire board was very happy with what they saw today,” Sabers said, noting the tours of Mitchell Tech’s campus, including equipment, technology and meeting faculty. “This is the economic engine of South Dakota. And there’s so many opportunities for young people to come to school at one of the tech institutes to really get into a vibrant part of the economy … It was a very good meeting.”
Sabers is the co-president of Muth Electric and a 1975 graduate of Mitchell Tech. And even as an alumnus, Sabers said there were aspects of MTI he wasn’t even aware of. The tour and first-hand experience on each institute’s campus will impact the members as they move forward in their roles on the South Dakota Board of Technical Education.
And Mitchell Tech President Mark Wilson agrees.
“I think that understanding our programs and the relationships of how key it is in working with industry is vital. That’s what I liked about this afternoon. I think our passionate instructors make a world of difference,” Wilson said.
The purpose of the orientation meeting was to familiarize members with the roles and responsibilities they will hold, Sanderson said, and where the technical institutes currently stand.
The day also consisted of information regarding the creation of SD Techs Work 2021, a five-year strategic plan focusing on student success. Sanderson said the plan ensure students have the knowledge and skillsets required of their employers, as well as “the right combination of faculty, staff and facilities” at each institute.
The board was established through SB 65 after Constitutional Amendment R was approved in November by South Dakota voters, allowing the state’s four postsecondary technical institutes to be governed separately from the South Dakota Board of Regents.
Nearly seven months after the November election, Sabers and other members expressed their interest in educating and exposing the state’s students to the possibilities at the four technical institutes.
“I think we’re all excited to get things going and see how we can positively affect the institutes,” Sabers said. ” … It’s an exciting time for the tech institutes and the young people that come here. There are so many opportunities out there.”