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September 13th, 2019

Happy Friday the 13th with a full moon!  We are finishing our fourth week of school and next week signifies the half way point of the first quarter of school.  In the first month of school our educators have established routines and procedures.  Our students have completed the NWEA assessment; which serves as a benchmark for this school year.  We will administer the test two more times (Winter and Spring).  The premise behind the testing is twofold: first it allows our educators to identify areas of strength and areas that need improvement, so they can tailor their teaching around our kids.  Second, it allows students/parents to observe growth through the year.  I try to spend time at the beginning of each day in the classrooms and I have observed top-notch teaching and top-notch learning!

            September is Attendance Awareness month and I would like to encourage everyone to make school attendance a priority.  The Attendance Works Council identifies students that miss twice a month as ‘chronically absent’.  The Council links academic and social struggles to chronic absenteeism.  I once heard a coach say, “Your best ability is availability”, so I hope we can continue to have very high attendance rates!

            The first document attached is a child find poster for any kids that are not school age yet (3-5 years old).  As a school, we understand the importance of early childhood education (this is an area that I am passionate about).  I believe that we can eliminate struggles on the back end of student’s educational careers if we target them at the front end.  Therefore, the purpose of this screening is to work with parents (and potentially pre-school/daycare providers) regarding the child’s academic, speech, and fine motor skills.

            The second document is my superintendent entry plan.  I named this plan, “Climbing the H.I.L.L”  H.I.L.L is an acronym for “Hill City – Interview – Learn – Lead”.  I know everyone is busy, but I encourage you to read through this document.  Especially the last two pages in which I outline my 10 goals for the 2019-2020 school year.

            Finally, I want to thank everyone in our educational community.  I love this school and fell blessed to serve as superintendent.  We have awesome educators, intelligent students, and supportive parents.  We are all on the same team with the same goal: THE BEST EDUCATION FOR OUR KIDS!




September 17th @ 6:00 PM– Pick up/Drop Off Presentation – HS Theater

Geared for all parents who drop off or pick up kids from school.  Deputy Isakson will lead the discussion regarding student safety to and from school.


September 20th – PICTURE DAY



The high school girls’ volleyball team is off to an 8-0 start and are the #1 ranked team in the region.  Our cross-country team continues to be a force, our cheer squad provides school spirit, and the Hill City football team travels to Edgemont in search of a victory tonight.  Our middle school athletics have approximately 70 student-athletes participating in a fall sport.  Our band and vocal programs are ROCKING (52 in choir 6-12, 114 in band 6-12).  Knowledge bowl will have their first contest on September 28th.



The last school board meeting was September 9th.  The Hill City Board of Education approved the 2019-2020 budget, which can be found on the school website.  The board recognized our new employees and gave them a Hill City Ranger welcome!  The board approved payments to Ranger Field which nearly completes this phase of the renovation project.  This phase included excavation, irrigation, and sod.  The only project waiting to be completed is the fence around Ranger Field.  (Once the fence is complete I will send out a flier explaining all of the progress.)



Our kitchen staff is serving coffee drinks to high school students in the commons.  The cost is $2.00 for a drink and since they are made with milk, they meet the nutrition requirement!



The elementary office will look different as a window was installed.  The rational was for school security, but Mrs. Kalkofen will be happy to have some fresh air.  The railing and gutters outside of the middle school are in the works as we wait for the companies to complete the job.



Mrs. Bair and the Leo Club sponsored a motivational speaker named Nathan Harmon to speak to our middle school and high school students.  Mr. Harmon delivered a powerful speech about self-respect, self-worth, and being kind to others!  I have heard amazing reviews from our student body regarding this assembly!


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Blake Gardner – Blake.Gardner@K12.SD.US – 605-574-3030

Hill City School District 51-2 Superintendent

August 10th, 2019 (Also Posted In Hill City Prevailer)

My dad used to tell me, “Character is what you do when nobody is watching.”  If that quote is true, then the people in our district have very high character.  It was a busy summer for students and staff to prepare for the 2019-2020 school year.  For example, we had over 40 elementary students attend 4 weeks of summer school that focused on STEM.  We had a week-long AP Boot camp in July for the high school advanced placement students to get a head start on the AP Classes.  Every morning the weight room, track, or gym was full of student-athletes that were improving upon their skills.  Therefore, while it is summer break; many of our students are still representing the Hill City School District in a positive way!

                Its hard to believe that school is just around the corner.  I personally can’t wait!  As educators we are in the ‘kid business’ and that means that while a little break is nice to re-charge the batteries, ultimately we want to be interacting with kids.  Here are a few dates to put on your calendar:

  • August 12-15th: New Student Enrollment (Secretaries office) and PC Checkout for 6-12th grade (HS Tech office)
  • August 14th: New Teacher Orientation
  • August 15th: Kindergarten Orientation 8:00-9:00AM
    • Optional for students entering Kindergarten to meet teachers, principal, superintendent, and other classmates.
    • August 19-20th: Teacher In-Service
  • August 21st – 1st DAY OF SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!!!
  • August 22nd – Substitute Orientation 9:30 in HS Theater
    • For any current substitute teachers or prospective substitute teachers.
    • Will cover policy, procedure, and expectations

It is an exciting time of year and I look forward to another wonderful year with all of our

stakeholders.  As I begin my 14th year in the district, I am always appreciative of the community pride, supportive parents, intelligent students, and amazing staff.  We are all on the same team with the same goal: THE BEST EDUCATION FOR OUR KIDS!  Make today your masterpiece!

JULY 10th, 2019  - (Also Posted In Hill City Prevailer)

I am humbled and honored to begin my tenure as superintendent of the Hill City School District!  My research shows that I am just the 13th superintendent in Hill City School history and only the 6th in the past 46 years!  I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am for this opportunity.  I moved here in 2006 and taught high school social studies for four years.  I completed my master’s degree in educational administration in 2010 and became the elementary principal.  Over the past 9 years I have served as an administrator in both the elementary and middle school.  As is the case in many small schools, I have worn many hats including: Coaching football, basketball, track, class advisor, and athletic director.  I have helped shovel snow at the school, wiped down tables in the cafeteria, and even filled in for the band director.  Simply put, I have done many jobs in this district that I hope have prepared me to be superintendent.

I recently completed my superintendent endorsement from the University of South Dakota and interviewed in front of a distinguished 12 person hiring committee.  During the interview I stated many times how much I love this school and community!  My wife, Kati (Ginsbach) grew up here and graduated from Hill City.  We have 4 kids (Witten, Baylor, Aspen, and Mercy).  This truly is my dream job and with any luck, my own children will have an opportunity to graduate from HCHS.  I am overflowing with pride in this school and community…and rightfully so.

Our school was recently named the #1 high school in South Dakota by US World & News.  The average A.C.T score was the top in the state with a 25.1, our kids have a rich curriculum of advanced placement classes and can earn college credits while still in high school.  Recently, students earned welding and phlebotomy certifications before they earned their high school diploma.  Being a small school also offers our students the opportunity to participate in extra curricular activities.  We have fantastic athletic teams and our fine arts programs are some of the best in the region.  The middle school offers classes to earn high school credit, which helps students get into advanced placement and dual credit courses.  At the elementary level, our teachers use the workshop model of instruction and our class sizes are optimal for student achievement.

I could go on about our school for hours, therefore if you see me around town please don’t hesitate to introduce yourself and talk about our school.  As superintendent, I want to be visible in our community.  I have created the slogan “Climbing the H.I.L.L” (H.I.L.L. is an acronym for Hill City, Interview, Learn, and Lead).  As a result, I plan on getting feedback from as many stakeholders as possible.  Schools should be the nucleus of a community and I hope that is what the Hill City School District can be.  I want everyone to know that my door is always open, and I want us all to work together for one common goal: THE BEST EDUCATION FOR OUR KIDS!

MAKE TODAY YOUR MASTERPIECE! --Blake Gardner – Blake.Gardner@K12.SD.US