Governor's program impacts Indian students

David Rooks
3/29/00

PIERRE, S.D. ? South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow's efforts to bring state-of-the-art technology into the state's schools received national media attention.

A press release issued by the governor's office March 18 revealed that South Dakota's efforts were the lead story on the television news program, "CNNdotCom."

"This is a powerful statement about what we are accomplishing in South Dakota through our partnership between the state government and the local schools, whether they are big or small, urban or rural," Janklow said.

A survey of South Dakota schools with a student population of more than 80 percent Native American students revealed that the governor's efforts do not stop at the state's reservation lines.

"Up until (Janklow) started this program we didn't have a lot of the computer technology, and definitely, we didn't have the Internet connectivity that this has provided for us," Dana Christianson, technology coordinator for Shannon County Schools, said.

"Janklow's wiring of the schools initiative made the necessary hardware available for wiring our schools for ethernet. That gives us our basic internal connections."

Long saddled with the dubious distinction of being the poorest county per-capita in the nation, Shannon County lies completely within exterior boundaries of the Pine Ridge reservation. There are four schools in the Shannon County school system ? Rockyford, Batesland, Wolf Creek School and Red Shirt Table.

Despite the surrounding poverty, the technology coordinator believes Janklow's program helped create a real breakthrough.

"Now everybody in the school can take advantage of the faster Internet available through this program. We can have every student in these schools, if we want to, working on the Internet."

Several hundred miles north, in McLaughlin on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, the story repeats itself. Technology coordinator Jackie Knudson said the McLaughlin school system is procuring 150 computers for their classrooms. She believes this is a direct benefit from the governor's program.

"Now that we've got the wiring done and everything's in place ? now all we have to do is buy more computers and we're ready to go."

McLaughlin School System's native population is more than 85 percent of its total, administrators say.

"Now we're really concentrating on our teacher training and getting the kids access to the computers when they need them, because the governor's project has provided all the basics for us," Knudson said. "The equipment he's given us alone is great. I mean we got a server computer alone that is four times what we had in the school to begin with. He's given us the backbone of the system, with all the switches and ? you name it ? we've gotten more than I can name. (It's) anywhere from $10 thousand to $15 thousand dollars worth of equipment."

The March 18 press release predicted that, "Within the next year or two, you will see an explosion in the use of technology by students in our schools."

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