Incident at GBR likely a prank, but officials waryDriver offered candy to students, who reported the event to advisers.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
Suspicious activity near Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary school at 2:35 p.m. Monday was a lead item on Superintendent Joe Graves’ report to the Mitchell school board later that same day. The regularly scheduled meeting was held in the Mitchell High School library.
“We had a vehicle pull up to the playground fence at Gertie Belle Rogers, according to reports from students, offering candy,” Graves told the board.
The accosted students did what they were supposed to do, Graves said, and reported the incident to a playground adviser. Mitchell School Resource Officer Pat Oleson was notified almost immediately, Graves said.
Graves said a brief written report of the incident was quickly printed and sent home with all K-8 students since it occurred close to the scheduled 3:15 p.m. dismissal time.
The written alert stated, in part, that “a green vehicle occupied by two people slowed their car by the east end of the playground and shouted out offers of candy.” The note was issued so that parents might take appropriate precautions.
Police will continue to investigate the matter, Graves said.
“Our best guess is that it was a prank by a youth,” he told the board, “but of course we need to proceed with caution.”
Graves said later that there were many kids in the GBR playground at the time, all of whom described the car’s occupants as “teen-aged or a little older.”
Past experience with similar incidents showed that such episodes are “bad decision-making by some teenagers who think it’s funny, rather than a real situation, but we didn’t treat it as such.” With a real threat perpetrators typically try to isolate a student prior to accosting him, he said.
“But we had to treat it as if it was real.”
In other business, Graves said the early indications are that district enrollment is up.
“Our enrollment tends to be very flexible prior to the Labor Day weekend so we’re still analyzing data and we’ll know more in the next few weeks.”
Monday was opening day for Mitchell Technical Institute, said President Greg Von Wald and early indicators are also up for that school. VonWald said he will have a clearer picture of fall enrollment in 10 days.
MTI housing shortage
A more immediate concern for MTI students this fall is the lack of available student housing, said Von Wald. “Our students are being placed in surrounding communities, because there’s just not enough housing in town,” he said. Students are car-pooling from rentals in the communities of Parkston, Ethan and Mount Vernon, he said. Any surplus housing has been absorbed by roofing crews, which converged upon Mitchell following the May 5 hailstorm, said Von Wald.
Many roofing crews have leases that run through December, effectively shutting off many housing options for MTI fall enrollees. The shortage has at least one individual talking about developing 55 to 60 housing units, said Von Wald, who declined to name the potential investor. The investors who also developed the first phase of on-campus MTI student housing are also considering a second apartment building, Von Wald said, but talks are in preliminary stages. “They’re running the numbers,” he said. In other business, the board also:
• Approved President Theresa Kriese’s recommendations for board member assignments to various working committees. Board member Brenda Freidel, was absent from Monday’s meeting due to a scheduling conflict, Graves said.
• Heard a report from board member Neil Putnam on the activities and the strategic plan of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota. Putnam, who is on that organization’s executive committee, said future ASBSD goals include more leadership training for ASBSD members, as well as more education opportunities in topics such as collective bargaining and school law. A Facebook web page will also make organization resources more available to members, he said.
• Approved the following personnel items.
New hires: April Bierema, child development instructor, full-time, $9 an hour; Shelly Kummer, Brittani Dice, CDC Instructors, $8.50 an hour — all effective Aug. 22; Desirae VanOverschelde, day custodian, Second Chance High School, Gertie Belle Rogers and L.B. Williams elementary schools, eight hours a day at $10 an hour; Kristy Kelly, paraeducator, early childhood (ECH) paraeducator, Mitchell Technical Institute, 7.25 hours at $10 an hour, effective Sept. 4.
Resignations: Dawn Melikant, Farm and Business Management program, MTI, effective Sept. 3; Julie Miiller part-time kitchen help, MTI, effective Aug. 20; Kaylene Kuhl, ECH, LBW, Aug. 31.
Resignation (extra-curricular): Allen Remily, half-time marching band director, effective immediately, pending suitable replacement.
Fall semester adjunct faculty, MTI: Barbara Becker, CIS 105 Complete Computer Concepts, $3,060; Stacey Thomsen, SLPA 200, Introduction to Audiology, $1,020.
Transfer: Katie Strand, computer lab, Longfellow, Gertie Belle Rogers elementary schools.