- Associated Press - Saturday, October 10, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota officials want to file a formal request with the federal government soon to name a new administrator for a Native American college-readiness program.

Tony Venhuizen, chief of staff to Gov. Dennis Daugaard, said the state has contacted the U.S. Department of Education to figure out what it must do to transfer management of the grant, the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/1QgzpHn ) reported.

The grant’s future has been uncertain since the state decided not to renew its contract with Mid-Central Educational Cooperative for federal GEAR UP program administration.

Authorities believe Scott Westerhuis shot his wife and four children last month and then set the family home near Platte ablaze before shooting himself. That was just hours after the state Department of Education informed Mid-Central that it was losing its most recent $4.3 million GEAR UP contract.

States can submit a request to the U.S. Department of Education to replace partners that have been ineffective at administering the grant. The federal government is expected to make a decision within a short period of time.

“The state is talking to (the U.S. Department of Education) to determine what steps we need to take to change the administration to the (Board of Regents),” Venhuizen said in a statement to The Associated Press. “We are hoping to work out the process with them soon so we can move forward and keep the grant.”

Darla Drew Lerdal, who has worked with GEAR UP, said that for the Native American children in South Dakota who are active in the program “time is of the essence.”

It’s not clear if the program has succeeded in sending more Native students to higher education institutions. The most recent program evaluation shows GEAR UP doesn’t track those numbers until the grant period concludes.

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Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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