Take Note

May 21, 2003 1 min read

Boys to Men

The senior class at Conde High School had quite a year.

Its members led the football team to the semifinals in the South Dakota state playoffs and to seventh place in the state basketball tournament. The male chorus, which included most class members, received a “superior” rating from the judges in a regional competition.

And 100 percent of the graduates—all six boys—will be going to college in the fall.

“It’s an outstanding group of young lads,” said Roger Youngman, the superintendent of the 76-student district about 160 miles northeast of Pierre.

Five of the six boys have attended school together since elementary school. Four of them are distant cousins. And they say they have enjoyed the experience of being in a small group and learning together.

“I like being in the smaller class,” said Lance Haskell, 18, who will attend the Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, S.D., in the fall. “We get to know each person in our class pretty well.”

The only time the lack of a female class member became a problem was during homecoming. When the vote for king was a tie, Mr. Youngman decided that Dustin Toy and Jordan Huber would share the crown.

Conde, a town of 187 or 201 residents (depending upon which highway sign you believe, Mr. Youngman says), is feeling pressure to consolidate with another district. The state doesn’t provide any aid to the district because South Dakota’s school funding formula is designed to pressure small districts to save expenses by merging, the superintendent said.

Mr. Youngman said the town generates revenue for its $996,000 annual budget from rent paid by a company that runs a natural gas pipeline through district property. The payments are enough to offset the lack of state aid, he said, so the district can afford to operate a K-12 school with just 76 students.

The school’s size often generates publicity. The whole graduating class of 1998—all three students—appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

Mr. Youngman said the show’s bookers have made inquiries about the availability of this year’s graduates, but it’s not clear whether they’ll go to Hollywood.

“That’d be really neat,” said Mr. Huber, 18, a running back on the football team, whose cousin sat on the couch next to Mr. Leno five years ago.

—David J. Hoff