The Shift: Centerville Superintendent Tim Hagedorn

Last Updated by Heather Benson on

SDPB's Kealey Bultena sat down with Centerville School District superintendent Tim Hagedorn to talk about some of the challenges and opportunities that come with the changing demographics of small town South Dakota.

Interview Highlights:

On the design of a school that houses 232 students, K-12, in one building:

We don't combine any of the classrooms. We have plenty of room for each of the classes, and actually our classes in the elementary are growing. We're averaging about 21 per class below 8th grade. There's a lot of benefits to it, even with high school kids coming down and doing reading time with elementary, and teacher's aids, they work with some of the lower elementary kids.

On some of misconceptions about small schools that people have:

You know, these larger towns may be able to offer more opportunities, but I think it's very unique in these smaller towns that you get more individual help with these students. You know, it's so competitive anymore, everything is test based, and how you rank and do well academically. And I think you can get more of that if you look at the rankings overall. You know, in the state, it's a lot of smaller schools that can supply that individual, more individual help for these students.

On some of the challenges of a smaller school district:

Well, sometimes, and it depends the location of these towns in South Dakota, if you are in a smaller town and you're very rural, you're not going to have the opportunities of participate in different things and be able to do things, and that's what you hear from kids a lot of times is there's nothing to do. You know, there's nothing to do in these towns. So, a lot of the communities have gotten into their economic development, and expanded upon their programs and getting stuff for these youth to do.

And right at 10 now for three back to back classes, it's kind of hard to maintain programs. They looked at options before I got here of co-op and that didn't work, fell through. I tried to bring back all the programs and keep that going, so kids don't leave. And we actually have grown since beginning of the year, seven to ten kids in our district. And you see younger couples moving back. They're able to, we're in a very good location here, where you got Yankton, Vermillion, Sioux Falls that's within driving distance. And for smaller families to live in and go to work in those places. Problem is housing, and Centerville happens to have very good economic development group, and they're trying to work on that.

About the connection between the community and the school:

It's strong community connection, and it's like most small towns. I always say it's a survival game. If the community doesn't work with the school and be very active, and you lose your school, and you kind of lose a little bit of your community too. That is a struggle in South Dakota in some of these smaller towns, and you've seen a lot more in the co-op and the sports to keep things going, improvement in facilities. So, it's a constant struggle, and it will for quite a few years until it's imposed on us that at a certain level, they're going to have to consolidate.

Listen to the entire audio of the conversation here.