Skip to main content
Spotlight: Conversations From the Sioux Falls School District

Spotlight: Conversations From the Sioux Falls School District

By Sioux Falls School District 49-5
An audible look inside the Sioux Falls School District spotlighting the people, places, and practices of the largest South Dakota school district in just thirty minutes or less.
Listen on
Where to listen
Apple Podcasts Logo

Apple Podcasts

Breaker Logo


Google Podcasts Logo

Google Podcasts

Pocket Casts Logo

Pocket Casts

RadioPublic Logo


Spotify Logo


Episode #15 - A Conversation with High School Senior, Taliyah Hayes, Future Educator!
This episode of Spotlight is especially special, as we welcome a Sioux Falls School District student onto the podcast for the first time ever! Taliyah Hayes is an insightful senior at Jefferson High School who is enrolled in our Teacher Pathway program. This unique pathway program exposes students to the education profession sooner. It provides high schoolers an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of teaching and work in another classroom to experience all the possibilities. In this episode, Taliyah shares with Superintendent Jane Stavem what inspired her to already make a firm decision to pursue a career in teaching Special Education, and how the Teacher Pathway program is helping her to achieve those goals. 
January 11, 2022
Episode #13 - A Conversation with Sioux Falls Public Schools Education Foundation Executive Director, Allison Struck
The Sioux Falls Public Schools Education Foundation (SFPSEF) is the philanthropic partner of the Sioux Falls School District. Working collaboratively with generous individual donors, business partners, and charitable foundations, the Foundation provides innovative educational opportunities and fills funding gaps that impact every student and teacher. The Foundation started as an endowment with the Sioux Falls Community Foundation in 1992 raising only $12,000 in the first twelve years. Since the Education Foundation's Board was officially established in 2008, the Foundation has awarded more than 35 Public School Proud grants to teachers, totaling $450,000, as well as providing over hundreds of first-year teachers with $200 grants to help fund supplies for their classroom, and used over $10,000 to help close the equity gap in our schools through its most recently established Student Success Fund program. Through these successful programs, the Foundation fuels teacher creativity and uses innovation to bolster workforce development. In this episode of Spotlight, Superintendent Stavem sits down with the Education Foundation's Executive Director, Allison Struck where they discuss how the Foundation has changed over the years, and the lasting impact it has on SFSD's 25,000 students, and 3,400 staff members. If you are interested in learning more about the Sioux Falls Public Schools Education Foundation, please visit their website here: or contact Allison Struck at 605-367-4484 or at 
September 07, 2021
Episode #12 - A Conversation with SFSD's Director of Nutrition Services, Gay Anderson
The Sioux Falls School District's Child Nutrition Services welcomed a new director in January of the 2020-2021 school year. Gay Anderson is a seasoned vet in the area of nutrition services who has big hopes and dreams for her department. With over 23,000 students in our district, many of whom eat school breakfast and lunch every day, and nearly 700 individuals requiring special food diets, her job is no easy task. Listen as she discusses with Superintendent Jane Stavem how she balances student choice, nutritional options, and foods that are appealing to all ages, and about how school meals will be free for all students this 2021-2022 school year. In addition, she talks about the big changes that are coing soon that will make it easier for families to learn what's on the menu. 
August 24, 2021
Episode #11 - Keeping Hope Alive In a Year That Felt Hopeless
If you have ever wondered what it has been like to be a young adult during the COVID-19 pandemic, look no further. What started out as a young woman's painting of expression during a difficult time soon turned into a prize-winning, viral TikTok piece of artwork depicting the collective feeling of hurt, confusion, and hope among fellow high schoolers. Listen as Roosevelt High School Choir Director, Robyn Starks Holcomb, Concert Choir member (and artist) Shelby Wright, and Sioux Falls native choral Composer, Kyle Pederson, discuss how they worked together to create a year-long comprehensive blend of multiple artistic mediums encapsulating the complexities of the year that was 2020.  Hear the powerful way it all came together here. 
June 08, 2021
Episode #10 - The Power of Stories with Jeff Tobin and Grant Schouten
What started as a podcast episode about podcasters quickly turned into a conversation about the importance of bringing people’s stories to life and preserving them through the podcasting medium. In this episode, Superintendent Jane Stavem talks with Washington High School educators Jeff Tobin and Grant Schouten. The duo discuss their motivation behind starting the Warrior Way podcast in the fall of 2020. They believe there are strong messages to send through podcasts by having honest, uninterrupted conversations with people. In a world where it gets harder to tune out the noise, podcasts provide a way to hear genuine conversations, and ideas and stories come through clearly. They are a way to learn about people, their stories, and what they have experienced. As Dr. Stavem says in the episode, “When we hear stories, we know better. And when we know better, we can do better.” Whether you are new to podcasts or have listened to thousands of them, this episode is a must-hear! Also, be sure to check out the Warrior Way podcast here —> Warrior Way Facebook ---> 
May 25, 2021
Episode #9 - Putting the Human In Human Relations - A Conversation with HR Director, Becky Dorman
The Sioux Falls School District is one of the largest organizations in Sioux Falls. It requires roughly 3,600 people to have school every day. Daily staffing needs include teachers, substitutes, custodial and maintenance staff, lunchroom workers, educational assistants, after-school professionals and so many more. It takes a village. In this episode of Spotlight, Superintendent Stavem is joined by Senior Director of Human Resources, Becky Dorman, to talk about the department that helps recruit, hire, and train the village that is SFSD. Highlights from the episode include the role the HR department played in navigating the COIVD-19 pandemic, the work being done to increase diversity in the workplace through a 'grow your own' program, and how the 'to catch all' department functions on a day-to-day basis.
April 27, 2021
Episode #8 - An Interview with Senior Special Services Director: Deb Muilenburg-Wilson
The Sioux Falls School District's Senior Special Services Director for 27 years, Deb Muilenburg-Wilson, will be retiring at the end of the 2020-2021 school year. In her 27 years, Muilenburg-Wilson has certainly left her legacy on the Sioux Falls School District and the 4,000+ students in our District with disabilities. Most recently, Deb was named South Dakota's Special Services Director of the Year for 2021. We couldn't let this key player in our public school system leave without sitting down to talk with us about what she's learned over her time with the District. Listen as Superintendent Jane Stavem sits down with Deb for a unique conversation about how she came to enter the Special Services world, what's changed, and her hopes for the future of the program.   Thank you, Deb, for your hard work and dedication over the past 27 years! 
April 13, 2021
Episode #7 - The Role of a School Board Member
The Sioux Falls School District will be holding an election on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, for two soon-to-be vacant seats on the Sioux Falls School Board. Current Board Members Kate Parker and Todd Thoelke’s terms expire in July.  In today's episode of Spotlight, Dr. Stavem welcomes current Sioux Falls School Board president, and her boss, Cynthia Mickelson! Together they discuss the important role a School Board member plays in our Sioux Falls School District. School Board members are responsible for a variety of tasks that keep the District running including the budget, hiring/firing superintendent, school calendars, boundaries, policy, large contracts. The work of a School Board member goes far beyond sitting at a meeting two times a month. It's both a time commitment and an investment into our students, staff, and our community as a whole.  Whether you're interested in running for a seat on our School Board or are simply curious to know more about the role of a School Board member, this episode is for you!  For more information about Election Day, please visit our website here: 
March 23, 2021
Episode #6 - The Art Of Opening A New School
For months now, you've heard us talk about the construction process and progress of our two new schools, Jefferson High School and Ben Reifel Middle School, set to open next fall. However, there is so much more to opening a new school beyond the physical construction process. In today's episode, Superintendent Stavem sits down with Jefferson Principal Dan Conrad and Ben Reifel Principal Shane Hieronimus, where they discuss the people side of opening a new school. From hiring staff to establishing a school vision, they address the complex work it takes to create a sense of tradition and love for a new school early on. Whether you're a future Bison or Cavalier, or just interested in learning more about the new schools, this episode is for you! 
March 08, 2021
Episode #5 - The Important Role of Custodial Staff
The Sioux Falls School District is responsible for maintaining 46 facilities and over 4 million square feet. With constant use at all hours of the day, specialized knowledge and extreme care are necessary for keeping these buildings running daily. In this episode of Spotlight, Superintendent Stavem sits down with Senior Director of Operations for over 30 years, Jeff Kreiter, and Lincoln High School’s Building Manager of 8 years, Matt Haag. They discuss the down and dirty of what it takes to manage these facilities, along with the critical role our custodial staff play in keeping our students and staff safe and healthy! *All references to the Lincoln High School pool are purely fictitious. :) 
February 23, 2021
Episode #4 - The Impact Mentorships Have On Student Success
Mentorships in our schools are crucial. Statistics show when a student is matched with an adult mentor, their attendance and school engagement go up, and their behavior issues go down. In this episode of the Spotlight podcast, Dr. Stavem sits down with long-time Lutheran Social Services Mentor Brian Bieber and new TeamMates mentor, Tina Blessen. They share their experiences, the impact mentoring has had on them, and how they've seen first-hand the importance of mentoring relationships. Whether you are a mentor already or interested in learning more, this episode is for you! Are you interested in getting involved? Please refer to these mentor resources: Lutheran Social Services ---> TeamMates Mentoring ---> Sioux 52 Mentoring Initiative --->
February 09, 2021
Introducing...Spotlight - The New SFSD Podcast!
Superintendent of the Sioux Falls Public Schools, Dr. Jane Stavem, introduces the District's new podcast venture, Spotlight: Conversations with the Sioux Falls School District. The podcast will give listeners an audible look inside the SFSD, spotlighting the people, places, and practices of the largest school district in South Dakota - in just thirty minutes or less! 
January 13, 2021
Episode #3 - Mental Health In Our Schools Amidst COVID-19 and Beyond
In our third episode of Spotlight, listen as Superintendent Dr. Jane Stavem sits down with Senior Coordinator of Student Services, Patti Lake-Torbert to discuss the implications COVID-19 has had on our students and staff's mental health, and what our schools are doing to help combat it. 
January 05, 2021
Episode #2 - Healthcare in Our Schools Amidst COVID-19
Medical professionals across the world are dealing with the effects of COVID-19. This includes our school nurses. In this episode of Spotlight, Superintendent Dr. Jane Stavem sits down with Health Services Coordinator, Molly Satter, and Roosevelt High School Nurse, Patti Anderson to discuss how our school nurses are working around the clock to keep our students and staff safe. 
January 05, 2021
Episode #1 - Fine Arts & Athletics Amidst COVID-19
Superintendent, Dr. Jane Stavem sits down with Fine Arts Director, Dr. Boyd Perkins, and Physical Education and Athletics Director, Casey Meile to discuss the intricacies involved in putting on activities and sporting events amidst COVID-19. 
January 05, 2021