Degrees and Certifications:
Welcome to the Kadoka Area School District! I’m Robert Lukens, and this is my first year as 6-12 principal in Kadoka Area Schools. A North Dakota native, I have been active in several districts across the Midwest as a teacher, coach, paraprofessional, and administrative intern. I grew up working on my family’s farm, I have a masters in science education, and am pursuing a doctorate of educational leadership.
My wife, Jenn, and my two sons Elijah and Sylas look forward to being part of the Kadoka Area. We are so humbled and excited to serve you and your family this year.
Kougar Column 1-13-2022Posted by Robert Lukens on 1/13/2022
Hello Kadoka Area,
It seems the new year has our students more active than the last. Most days of the week, there is an activity going on with our students. Amid this busy time, a scene in the background has our attention. The legislature is starting their session in Pierre, which will affect every aspect of our school.
You say, “Really? Every aspect?” Yes. Ultimately, our state-funded school is dependent on the decisions the legislature passes down. What happens over the next few months will inevitably affect policy and our school’s continued function. The power of the legislature isn't a bad thing. These decisions are made by elected representatives, so it is a tenant of democracy that our voice is heard each spring.
As a principal, I reflect on my interest in the political process each year, and there is one memory I hold dear. As an elementary student, our school took students to the legislature in my home state of North Dakota. One time, I witnessed a young girl standing in front of a committee asking the legislature to change the N.D. state bird to the chicken. Funny as it seemed, I was impressed with her arguments and the time she put in to explaining them as she stood in front of men and women much older than she. I realized that even someone as young as I was at the time could make a difference. Although the girl was not successful in her effort, that was the moment I truly came to love democracy and the life it gave us. It is something worth defending because even someone as young as 12 years old can stand in front of powerful people, state their point of view and be respected.
This legislative season, consider this: do you have a young person in your life who would benefit from seeing our great state function? Would you be able to make time for a trip to Pierre to watch the tremendous democratic process unfold? Much like one day in a classroom can change the trajectory of a student's educational path, so can a day with a loved one learning the greatness of democracy and the states that serve it.
Kadoka Area High School
Kougar Column 12-30-2021Posted by Robert Lukens on 12/30/2021
Kougar Area Patrons,
Sitting in my family living room with my energetic children opening presents for Christmas made me realize that the greatest gift is not from Santa but the elves themselves. Of course, St. Nicolas delivers all the pageantry and makes the headlines, but where would he be without the elves and Mrs. Claus taking care of all the big day's details? What would the reindeer pull if they didn't have toys fill Santa's magic sack? I am sure that all those that receive coal, as I did one Christmas morning as a child, would be quite satisfied with avoiding a messy hand of black soot when they reached in their socking on Christmas morning. However, somebody had to cut and form that lump from the mine. Still again, Santa probably didn't do all this work by himself. The message of improving my attitude about him and his yearly appearance was aided by those making his operation run smoothly. I may have sat in his lap at a nearby department store as a tike and told him I knew he wasn't real and that I was only doing this for a picture my Mom wanted. However, the execution of the punishment probably fell to those around the jolly holidaymaker.
Similarly, our school is full of heroes that go unnoticed but make a huge difference in human capital development from our public school system. Namely, those who assist the principals and superintendent directly make sure we have what we need when we need it. In the past, these positions would have been called many names: janitors, secretaries, or even hourly staff. However, many are quick to point out that they are much more than that. They are pleasant voices on the phone when you call. The person, your child, comes to when they need a hug. The people who work around them are much less stressed and more productive just by their presence. There isn't a set description of these positions, many bring different skills to the job, but all are valued.
As New Year's approaches, maybe a fancy resolution is not in order at all. Why ask for something new when what is around you is the best you could ask? Our support staff at Kadoka Area is a New Year's wish in itself. As I watch the ball drop in Times Square this year, I will not be in awe of the beauty. Intentionally, I will remember the people who did the little things to make it possible, and in turn, remember those who make our district so much better by their mere presence and skills. Thank you to all, and happy new year!
Kadoka Area High School
Kougar Column 12-23-2021Posted by Robert Lukens on 12/23/2021
Hello, again Kougar family. I hope the entire area had a fantastic start to the Christmas season. The twelve days of Christmas may not be standard for all. However, each of the 12 days after December 25th, I like to list at least all the gifts in my life. In the season of giving, my wife, my family, my young children are near the top, but the blessing of being here in Kadoka is also very significant. Thank you to all for your tremendous support of our students and staff. Community support is the most critical part of a high-grade public-school experience, and you bring that here in spades.
Heading into the new school year, we are blessed with great activities for our students to partake. We are focused solely on the student-athlete experience at Kadoka Area School. Therefore, start new eligibility guidelines at the start of the new semester. The Kadoka Area Middle School and the Kadoka Area High School run on different eligibility systems due to the diverse preferences of our teams. As a former classroom teacher, I support this. We allow our middle school teams to deal with the younger students differently from our high school teams to deal with the eldest students in the area. Each stage is different emotionally, developmentally, and above all; academically.
The middle school team will run eligibility checks every week. So to start the new year, all middle schoolers at KAMS should be eligible to participate in any sport, or activity.
They will stay eligible if they can keep all grades above 70% or a C grade. Checks for middle school are every Tuesday, and they can play immediately upon raising their grade in the Infinite Campus grade book provided by the state.
High School grade checks are every four and a half weeks. The last check was on December 17th at the end of the semester, and the next grade check will be on February 2nd. After the check on February 2nd, a student has one week to get their grade up to a C average to become eligible. If the student cannot get their classroom grade to an acceptable level by then, they must wait until the next grade check to qualify in the activity.
Academic eligibility is a policy that we hope we never have to deal with, and we hope to see all students on the court, playing field, or stage all of the time. However, it is essential that all stakeholders firmly understand the policy so when we are saddened by our favorite student not participating in their activity, we all know why.
Thank you for your time and understanding.
In support of the Kougars,
Kadoka Area High School
Kougar Column 12-16-2021Posted by Robert Lukens on 12/16/2021
How about a sleigh ride? Maybe not this year as the snow is quickly melting, but as a child, some of my most treasured memories are in the back of a horse-drawn sleigh at Christmas time. Each night, I read my sons’ Christmas stories, and I notice the pages with horses in the snow.
My grandfather, a western Dakota rancher, was a collector of anything that a horse pulled. When he passed, my father was able to keep one of his horse-drawn sleighs for us to enjoy during the winter. We had two horses trained as a team, and we would ride through the alfalfa fields as if we were floating on air. The prancing horses would lead us with great majesty and strength that, years ago, helped our ancestors settle on these great plains.
My grandfather from eastern North Dakota often told stories of his first time working the land on our northern farm. He would say that the team of horses knew the land better than he did. My great-grandfather trusted the horses to keep his young son safe as he plowed the field in the pre-tractor society that raised him. When I was younger, I rode in cattle drives, bringing the cows from one pasture to another. At the young age of 12, I was fortunate to ride horses that knew more about cattle than I did.
A trusted team of horses, as my grandfather's first plowing pair were, or my first round-up required, takes skill and repetition to develop. Though the horse drawn plows have left the fields, our ranches and rodeo hands have core skills in their ability to recognize, find a quality, acknowledge it, and train it into a horse. The skill of working with horses is something we regularly witness here in the Kadoka Area. Our youth work with the great beasts, from summer rodeo to our numerous parades and CTE courses. Our Kadoka Area gives students the opportunity to learn about horses in their general education classroom, making students more employable for our local businesses and supporting our local economy, building our legacy from generations past and generations to come.
Kadoka Area Schools
Kougar Column 12-9-2021Posted by Robert Lukens on 12/9/2021
As a school, we pride ourselves on educating the whole child. I have often praised the attributes of our Career and Technical Education, Fine Arts, and fall extracurricular programs. This week, however, is the start of something new. Our gymnastics, boys' and girls' basketball, and wrestling programs will start their seasons shortly, and the student body is excited about what’s to come.
The role of sports in education is a unique one. Sports such as basketball and wrestling force our young students to make instant decisions. This can happen quickly, like in a game of basketball when a player steals and must execute a fastbreak with their teammates. Their coaches will prepare them for that moment; however, the player will have opportunities to implement on their own what they learned from careful instruction during practice.
Similarly to the athletic arena, our students will encounter moments of independent execution throughout their lifetimes. Many bosses or occupations will provide training on how to execute on the job, but it is up to our students, the future employees, to make those decisions in real-time. What a privilege it is to watch the investment of our staff come to fruition once one of our graduates secures a job and is able to put their education to practice.
We all enjoy the thrill of a game-winning shot or the drama of a tiebreaker match in the ring. What gets me is when the student-athlete succeeds, the pure joy spread across their face. The face of a successful student in any area is the product of the work and time they, their family, their teachers, and their coaches have selflessly devoted to them.
The mental training of the game is also quite extensive. In wrestling especially, the best-conditioned student-athlete in the match usually wins. When Dakota Territory was founded, it had a population near 5,000. This desolate prairie was to provide for the families that lived here year-round. The mental strain of getting through each day to build this great land is a sample of our forefather's strain. The late-night games and coming to school for class push students through a mental struggle, better preparing them for the real world, just like our founders.
Today, I am so proud of our staff and all the effort they put into helping a student to complete the semester and mentally prepare for the future successfully. I am happy to say that I am a Kadoka Kougar. The winter sports seasons are a welcome tradition, one we look forward to each year. Best wishes to all of our student-athletes.
In support of the Kougars,
Kadoka Area High School
Kougar Column- 12-2-2021Posted by Robert Lukens on 12/2/2021
The value of a school in a community is seen in the numbers. With a quality school, we see a higher employment rate, more robust community engagement, and the ability to develop skills in our workforce. One of the programs that I am particularly proud of at Kadoka High School is the Agriculture and CTE Program. Mr. Knutson, Mrs. Hermann, and Mr. Ohrtman do a fantastic job developing working with students for career-ready skills.
In preparation for this column, I asked Mr. Knutson, the Agriculture teacher at KAHS, about his program. He provided the following information to share with you:
"We spend a lot of time talking about careers, wages, and job requirements. We talk about what skills employers are looking for and where the students can go - such as vo-techs or universities - to get those skills.
I tell the students that I think the Kadoka area is a great place to live. Still, you will probably have to leave and go somewhere else to get the skills or the degree to have a competitive-paying job. Go ahead and gain those skills or a degree - and then come back ... Students must find some area of interest they may want to pursue. Still, it is also essential to figure out what they don't like. Welding is fascinating to learn how to do, but some students find out they really wouldn't want to do it day after day.
What I like about teaching Ag, Food, and Natural Resources is that you have a world of variety in the topics you cover. In a given year, the list is nearly endless. We still offer "hands on" woodworking, metal fabrication, and electricity in addition to coursework which ties in more with Career Development Events like Horse Judging and Natural Resources.
The FFA component adds a great deal to the classes. It allows the students to academically compete locally, statewide, and even nationally. Over the last two decades, students from the Kadoka FFA have won more than 30 state competitions in a variety of events which allowed them to participate in national competitions. There have even been some team placings and individual national championships in Farm Business Management, Range Judging, Homesite, and Land Judging.
We compete against all 100 other chapters in South Dakota., there is no break because we are from a smaller school. It means just that much more when the students perform well on the state level."
Since I started at Kadoka, I have had the opportunity to visit with various connections throughout the agricultural industry. I had mentioned in conversations some of the skills that our kids learn: welding, range plant identification, business management, etc. As I list off the skills, the reaction is always similar. The businesses of the agricultural industry would love to mentor and work with our students.
A weekly activity of mine is to tune it to AgWeek TV on the local cable stations. My sister, Katie Pinke, is an editor for the Forum News Service that produces the program. With 25 years of agricultural experience in my background, I like to find ways to stay connected to an industry that falls close to my heart. Featured the weekend before Thanksgiving was the start of a new ag program in a public school.
This was a story point to feature for midwestern television states; programs like Mr. Knutson's are becoming rarer and rarer.
This emphasizes why Kadoka Area's staff effort to have missing work turned in is so noble. Not only are they giving up their time. Still, they are making an effort to improve outcomes for everyone in the community.
In Kadoka Public, we are fortunate to have an Agricultural program and CTE classes to supply to our community. It is rewarding to walk throughout the community and see our graduates working at our local business. It is a great asset to have our CTE and agricultural programs support our businesses. It is great to see the incredible outcomes for all.
In support of the Kougars,
Kadoka Area High School
Kougar Column- 11-25-2021Posted by Robert Lukens on 11/25/2021
Hello Kougar Family,
Thanksgiving is here! Festive 'seasons of giving' are entirely in the process. As a community, we often give thanks for many things: homes, our jobs, our family, even our society. Today though, I write to thank the teachers and coaches who give their time each day to make a difference for our schools. We have made some changes in our school to address our students having some troubles getting work completed for their classes. Our middle school team has been putting extra hours and time into allowing students to get the assignments they have not turned in done before the end of the semester in December. Students with missing work have 20 minutes of dedicated time to work on projects over recess; once their assignments are in, they can go back to recess.
Further, students with over twenty missing assignments are given a chance to get their work done in the 6th and 7th hours each day. Once they have less than 20 assignments to get done, they can head back to their regular last block classes. I have been so impressed by our middle school teacher's dedication to helping students and giving prep and lunchtime willingly to allow more students to succeed each day.
On the high school side, we have started to put zeros in the electronic grade book for missing work to inform students of their 'true' grades. Why? We want all students to be able to prevent a fall in the last few weeks of school. By placing zeros for missing work, students can see where they are in the weeks leading up to the end of the semester (December 17th, 2021) and meet with their teachers to get their grades moving in the right direction. Again, I am so impressed and want to thank the teachers for their willingness to give up time and work hard to help our students get their assignments done to retain the knowledge needed to succeed in our world. They are indeed a great asset I cannot thank enough.
Why thank these individuals? Last week I wrote about the importance of community support in schools and how little can get done without parental and community consent. Who supports the community’s effort? When a student attends, who makes it their mission to allow the student or student-athletes to grow and improve? Who focuses their effort on educating the whole child, mentally, physically, and fulfilling their duties to reach their highest potential as a team or student? We look no further than our staff at Kadoka Area and its outlying schools.
What are the fruits of these labors? Research shows that students who have a higher GPA do have a higher occurrence of entering the workforce. Students who graduate with a strong background in various areas (Agriculture, Music, Athletics, etc.) show higher success outside of high school. Do these successes take place without our educators and coaches investing in them as students? I don't think they do. People invest in students, including the previously talked about community members, but the teachers that spark the kindle success in a student's life.
We celebrate this holiday and the fruits of our success as a nation. The first Thanksgiving was between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims so many years ago, and now, today, we celebrate the investment of our teachers and coaches into their descendants that inhibit our country right now, right here in the same world we live. Thank you, teachers and coaches. Enjoy some turkey and vacation for your efforts!
In support of the Kougars,
Mr. Robert Lukens
Kougar Column- 11-18-2021Posted by Robert Lukens on 11/18/2021
We give thanks for all the wonderful things our students do each day. Most of all, we thank those that take the time to diligently get their child to school each day. One of the most underappreciated facts about PK-12 education is that the chief factor in receiving an education is access. Access is triggered by effort outside of the school, coming from parents and guardians who care. Without the daily effort of these individuals to get their kids to school, no learning can take place. With Thanksgiving Day quickly approaching, as well as the Thanksgiving break, we give thanks for all the parents and guardian who create access for the young ones around them.
Without your unsung effort, no among of time from any individual in our school district can change the course of a student’s life. Further, our society is built on millions of unspoken heroes who make student growth possible. In a study from 2018, it was shown that a society will spend an extra $400,000 on additional law enforcement alone for each school dropout. Therefore, it isn’t I who give thanks for the effort of our parents and guardians, but every taxpayer who is able to pay a few more bills because of the lack of tax commitment shown to come from a commitment to education by a community.
In the past month we were fortunate to host the SoDak 16 Class A state volleyball qualifiers in Kadoka. Teams from Parkston, Winner, Hill City, and Rapid City were able to travel to our humble community and vie for a chance to compete at the state tournament at the Monument in Rapid City. This event, and this opportunity, was made possible by a commitment from those we give thanks for today in this column.
Other administration have thanked me for our work here, but it really isn’t us that made their kids lives memorable. It is everyone in our community reading this that gave their time, money, effort, and resources to make our new athletic facility possible. We recognize that many of those who made that possible are the same, or descendants of, those that we benefit from the effort from in our attendance each day. To all, thank you, as I hope you have gathered in this column today, everyone’s effort in this school may seem small at the time. However, even a mustard seed on your part can grow to change everything in the system. Thank you!
In support of the Kougars,
Kougar Column- 11-11-2021Posted by Robert Lukens on 11/11/2021
The topic of this column is improvement. In middle school and high school, we stress that we need to be thinking about getting one percent better each day. Some days that won't happen; other days, we will grow much more than minimum. It is the nature of our profession. If, as teachers, we break down the skills into small sequential steps, we see significant growth. As this column will be released on Veteran's Day, I am so thankful for those in our society from the military who parallel this process. With great pride, I support an institution that built the premise that "American Made" stands for something all over the world, and we thank those that made it possible for that definition to stand.
Recently, the state of South Dakota has been assisting us in a Comprehensive Needs Analysis, or a CNA; this is a process we use to understand what we as a school need to do to become better. Our student-athletes go to summer camps to play with different coaches in the off-season. We have the opportunity to bring in a fresh perspective on our instructional direction as we move forward as a learning team. As educators, we see our students struggle to grow and learn new topics in our classroom, and we understand the process it takes to get better. It isn't easy to look at ourselves in the mirror and evaluate our system with another. As we do the evaluation in the CNA, we are excited about the results. This is a better place for our kids to learn and grow because of taking this step.
A better school means a better community in Kadoka. Recently, I learned that a simple five percent rise in graduation rate represents a 32 billion dollar increase in economic stimulus. The dollar amount equates to a 640 million dollar jump in revenues for the state of South Dakota. That is sixteen times more than the governor's 2022 budget plans to transfer to savings. It would cover a third of the governor's budget revenues overall. Numbers like these make me understand why my job is essential to Kadoka and important areawide.
Improvement and growth are something our athletes work on each day. Hudson Taylor, namely, did that very well this season. He ran recently at the state cross-country meet and clocked a personal record time. Thank you, Hudson, for your effort. We appreciate it.
Finally, as we break into between our fall and winter sports seasons, we want to recognize the great work of our seniors this fall: Tyler Ring and Dawson Reckling in football; Andi Stone, Rebekah Shuck, Madison Brown, and Lanie Blair in volleyball; and Farryn Knutson in cross country. Thank you to everyone who made this season a success.
In support of the Kougars,
Mr. Robert Lukens
Kougar Column- 11-4-2021Posted by Robert Lukens on 11/4/2021
As we start November, the school year starts to break up as we see many holidays come and go. We have been fortunate to have such fantastic weather for our kids at recess and open campus time in our middle school and high school. Still, we hope to an end to the drought that our area is experiencing. Hopefully, the land can recover over the winter with some snow and moisture for our local economy to flourish.
I want a couple of fantastic students/athletes this week whom I missed in past columns. Hudson Taylor and River Solon placed at the regional cross country meet and had an excellent showing for the Kougars. Cross Country is such a mentally demanding sport, and these kids do it well. It is suitable for us to be part of a sport where we can't blame anyone else for our failure but ourselves. The natural accountability of sports allows students to understand that there is no one else to blame in the classroom and on the field. We have to solve the problem ourselves.
Concerning solving problems, I would like to thank the cross country coaches for their time and effort for our kids. Due to some extenuating circumstances, the coaches went the extra mile to make this year a success for everyone in the program. On behalf of our kids, we thank those for their outstanding efforts during the year.
Volleyball will start playoffs with a game at Jones County on Tuesday. The game will be the start of the season's final leg for girls as they once again try to advance in the playoffs. Good luck, Kougars! We are proud of you!
There was an increase in submissions of Box Tops for the Kadoka Area Parents and Community to use to support our schools this week. Thank you to those who have scanned their receipts and taken the extra step to help our teachers through the Box Top program. Funding in school is pivotal for the ability to educate. Typically, anything the community, if that is by volunteering or donation, can do to support the school will have a tremendous impact on the education of many. Therefore, as the box tops dollars add up for our supportive community group, we thank the people who make this possible. Your impact radiates here at Kadoka Area School.
Finally, we recognize those students who are in good standing and entering rodeo season. While not an officially sanctioned sport by the SDHSAA, we understand the commitment of resources to partake in rodeo is substantial, and keeping academics in line is another commitment in itself. We recognize the effort of the students and parents who bring great color to the experiences of our student body. The enjoyable diversity you bring is noticed.
We are now reaching the end of another entry of the Kougar Column; thank you for your time and energy in supporting the Kadoka Area Schools.
Kadoka Area School