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Rising costs crunch school food service budget

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The Mitchell School District's food service program is struggling to cover its increased costs that came from the new federal guidelines for school lunches.

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That was the focal point of a discussion by the Mitchell Board of Education when it took its first look at the $16 million 2014-15 school budget Monday night. The regular meeting was held at the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy building.

Participation in the school lunch program has remained steady but the rising costs of providing healthier food options, such as whole grain breads and more fruits and vegetables, has left the district taking a $56,051 loss for 2013-14 in the food service budget, according to projected numbers. The district will use existing reserves to cover the remaining costs.

District Food Service Director Sean Moen said the school has to keep up with federal requirements. The program spent about $30,000 more than it brought in through revenue in 2012-13 because of the increased costs and new requirements, and that figure has climbed even more this year.

The school district uses mostly federal money and funds from meal charges to pay for its food service program.

"We're about three years away from not being solvent and would need to use district funds to pay for the food service program, which is unacceptable in my opinion," Moen said.

The district was planning a 10-cent price increase next year for its meals, but Moen said that might not be enough. Elementary students are currently charged $2.40 for lunch, while middle school and high school students pay $2.60 for lunch. An adult lunch is $3.35 in the Mitchell School District.

"It's more expensive than the food we used to serve," Mitchell Superintendent Joe Graves said. "Even if you keep participation the same, it's going to be more expensive in costs. We're going to have to do something."

Moen said there have been some problems with students accepting the changes in the meals regarding whole grains and lentils. He thinks the changes have been a pleasant surprise for kids who have tried the new foods, but the switch has not gone as easily as he hoped.

"We're meat-and-potato people here in the Midwest, and it's hard to change things over when parents aren't even doing that at home," Moen said.

Board approves to block shot clock

The board voted on South Dakota High School Activities Association constitutional matters and the board of directors seats Monday night, supporting Mitchell Board of Education member Deb Olson in her candidacy for an activities association board position.

Olson is one of seven people running for the seat for the board of directors, which regarding rules and classifications for sports and other extra-curricular activities in the state. It also decides on eligibility of students and organizes state tournaments

"It's a competitive field, but we have the best candidate," Graves said, of the seat which has seven suitors from the state's largest schools.

Most notably, the school board voted for a constitutional amendment that bans the SDHSAA from enacting a rule to force Class A or Class B schools from implementing a shot clock at any level of boys or girls basketball without first getting a 60 percent majority vote from member schools.

Graves said the matter does not concern Mitchell but recommended a "yes" vote because the SDHSAA board should not decide a matter that affects all schools without those schools getting a vote.

"There's a bigger issue here than the shot clock," said Graves, who said other area superintendents have urged schools to send the association a message.

The school voted against amendments that would further subdivide board spots based on enrollment; an amendment that strips the board of director spot if a principal became a superintendent; and an amendment to disallow multiple directors on the SDHSAA board from the same school district. The school voted yes on a policy for athletics when a third ejection for a student or coach and would make that person ineligible from competition for the rest of the season.

Those amendments will need a 60 percent plurality to be approved. The ballots -- one per school -- are due back to the SDHSAA by May 27.

The school supported the candidacy of Linda Whitney, superintendent of the Sanborn Central School District, in the race for the Division III representative spot on the SDHSAA board. Graves said she is an "excellent educator in a neighboring school district" worth supporting.

Personnel

As part of the consent agenda, the board will consider the following personnel items:

• New hires: Nick Baus, ADBC instructor/MTI, $45,000 (9-month instructor), effective Aug. 19; Sonya Johnson, payroll/human resources, $41,500 annually for 2014-15 and $6,917 for May 1 through June 30, effective May 1; Kevin Kelly, physical education/MS, $33,750, effective 2014-15 school year; Anne Kinsley, MS science, $35,000, effective 2014-15 school year; Adam Schorzmann, social studies/language arts/MS, $33,750, effective 2014-15 school year.

• Resignations: Katie Strand, .5 FTE computer aide, effective end of school year; Gail Goehring, paraeducator/MS, effective end of school year.

• Transfer (extra-curricular): Catherine VerSteeg, to assistant show choir pit director, 2014-15 school year.

• Resignation (extra-curricular): Ryan Stahle, assistant show choir pit director, effective end of school year.

Other business

In other business, board members:

• Recognized the state Future Business Leader of America winners.

• Approved, on second reading, Mitchell Technical Institute policy 448 regarding fixed asset inventory. Personal property requiring inventory would have an expected useful life of one year, to meet state policy.

• Approved a Mitchell Area Technical Educators (MATE) agreement for the 2014-15 school year.

• Approved declaring an MTI shop house at 1800 E. Spruce St. and site house in the 800 block of W. 16th Ave. as surplus property so they can be sold through the sealed bid process.

• Approved MTI bids on paving the lot east of the Energy building for $104,006, and an ag PTO dynamometer for $30,495 from Dynamometer Inc. A dynamometer is a device for measuring force, torque or power.

• Heard board member reports, the superintendent's report and public commentary.

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