BSB notebook: B.E.S.T., juvenile justice, transportation

Addison DeHaven, The Brookings Register
Posted 3/17/22

BROOKINGS – The Brookings School District presented a B.E.S.T. award to a brave group of staff, students and parents at Monday’s meeting of the Brookings School Board.

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BSB notebook: B.E.S.T., juvenile justice, transportation

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BROOKINGS – The Brookings School District presented a B.E.S.T. award to a brave group of staff, students and parents at Monday’s meeting of the Brookings School Board. The recipients were Brookings High School band director Isaac McMahon, Nick Brozel, Amy Button, School Board President Mellissa Heermann, Hillari Foster and Becky Vande Kop.

Superintendent Klint Willert shared the story of what transpired on a trip to Minneapolis during the first semester of school this year. 

“This fall, during the marching band championship at U.S. Bank Stadium, a man in a red hoodie began approaching BHS students telling them to leave. When the man was asked to leave the students alone so they could continue their warm-up, the man (in the hoodie) got in McMahon’s face and asked what he was going to do about it,” Willert said. “By this time, Brozel (brother of one of the marching band students) had walked up and asked if there was a problem. The man then pulled up his hoodie revealing that he had a large knife.

“McMahon and Brozel tried to keep the man calm while the band parents asked event staff to come over to help. The police were also called, but they did not come to help immediately,” Willert continued. “Brozel, McMahon, the event staff and parents (Heermann, Foster, Vande Kop) tried to keep themselves between the man and the students. During this time, the students ended their warm-up early and were able to get out of the area. The man ended up moving on to other marching band groups in the area and did the same to them.

“No one was hurt, and eventually some of the other band directors and event staff convinced him to leave by giving him $20,” Willert added.

 Students were fairly upset after what transpired, Willert said.

“But (they) still managed to go on to perform wonderfully, representing the Brookings School District, Brookings High School and the Brookings music program,” Willert said. “I can’t help but think that it was because of the courage of those that were mentioned that that was able to happen.

“It goes to show once again how our community steps up when the time is necessary to advocate for and intervene on behalf of our students,” Willert added.

“That was one of my earliest chaperoning experiences,” Heermann said. “I was there as a parent and just happened to be a part of that experience, and what I know now is that our kids are in good hands when they are in band.”

Comments on juvenile justice

The 2022 South Dakota state legislative session is now over, sans veto day, but during the session, Willert testified in support of Senate Bill 198. The bill originally aimed to revise juvenile justice in South Dakota and create a placement study group for the upcoming summer.

“It was a great opportunity to tell some of the stories from our staff and our own school district on some of the challenges that have emerged with the changes relative to juvenile justice changes,” Willert said. “The unfortunate part about that – some of the rhetoric that started to emerge with suggestions that schools want to lock kids up, and there’s nothing farther from the truth.”

Willert explained that SB 198 is about finding the right spaces and getting resources to schools to support the needs of the youth in the schools.

“The real positive with Sen. (V.J.) Smith carrying this bill forward is that it has started a conversation,” Willert said.

SB 198 eventually died after multiple amendments and a return to the Senate, but Willert expects that there will be some sort of study, which will look at possible placements for juvenile, that will take place in the future.

“I’m going to continue to be a champion for that on behalf of our staff and our district because I think it’s a conversation that needs to have some light,” Willert added. 

Transportation grant update

Willert informed the board on Monday that the South Dakota Department of Transportation has reported that no South Dakota federal grant applications were selected this funding cycle.

The Brookings School District and the Brookings Area Transit Authority (BATA) had applied for a grant to build a joint transportation facility for the district and BATA. The Brookings City Council had just recently voted to rezone an area on 22nd Avenue South for the facility.

Willert explained that the feedback Travis Bortnem, interim executive director for BATA, received was that the answer wasn’t necessarily no, it was more “not right now.”

“We have to keep this fresh in our eyes and our mind,” Willert said.

Willert said they plan to learn about possible gaps in the application and will resubmit. 

School board member Wesley Tschetter explained that they need to stay on top of this because the current storage facility, located on Eighth Street South near the high school, is not sufficient for the current fleet of buses and cars that the district stores there.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 11 in the Dakota Prairie Elementary community room.

Contact Addison DeHaven at adehaven@brookingsregister.com.