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Two Mitchell elementaries among state’s best schools

All schools in the Mitchell School District met, and most exceeded, their reading and math goals, Superintendent Joe Graves told the Board of Education Monday night.

0 Talk about it

Graves, during a superintendent’s report, discussed a portion of the district report card for the first time this year. One of the highlights of the report card shows the district’s achievements in last spring’s State Test of Educational Progress (STEP), which measures the state’s academic standards.

“In general our schools are doing very well,” Graves said at the meeting, held at Mitchell High School’s library. “Our student achievement is very good and we’re happy with it. We’re always working to improve it in various ways and will continue to do so.”

All three of Mitchell’s elementary schools scored higher than the state average in reading and math scores. Gertie Belle Rogers, which was recently recognized as an exemplary school — a school that has a performance level in the top 5 percent of schools in the state — scored in the 91st percentile in reading and 92nd percentile in math.

L.B. Williams was recognized in the report card as a status school, or school that has a performance level in the top 10 percent of schools in the state. Longfellow, Mitchell Middle School and Mitchell High School were all named progressing schools, which means they have performance indexes between the bottom 5 percent and the top 10 percent of schools in the state.

Another highlight Graves pointed to was the district’s graduation rate, which is about 11 percentage points higher than the state level. Mitchell graduated 93.4 percent of its seniors last year.

“It’s a good number, but we’d like it higher,” said Graves, who later explained the students who last year took the ACT at Mitchell scored a 23.1, a historic high.

He said 28 students who graduated from Mitchell last year had plans to go to Mitchell Technical Institute, the most popular choice among post-secondary schools.

“You’re going to see basically every sixth student walking across our commencement stage is walking over to MTI and choosing one of their programs there,” Graves said. “No wonder why, because of their extremely high graduation and placement rates, and that’s my plug for our own technical institute.”

Graves showed that for at least the fifth straight year, the ethnic makeup of students in the district is getting more diverse. This year, about 85.9 percent of the students are white, compared to 87.9 percent last year. The next highest ethnic makeup is American Indian at 7.1 percent. This year’s certified enrollment is not yet available, Graves said, adding he will bring that number to the next Board of Education meeting when the count becomes official.

Graves also pointed to the decline of use in the free and reduced lunch program. Last year, 49 percent of the elementary students in the Mitchell School District were eligible for free and reduced lunches. That has dropped to 44 percent this year.

Forty-one percent of middle school students and 28 percent of high school students qualified for free and reduced lunches a year ago, and that has dropped to 35 and 23 percent this year.

“We’re seeing the departure of the recession, so our socio-economic status in terms of the percentage of our students eligible for free and reduced lunches has gone down in all categories,” Graves said.

School tour

For the first time since its renovation, the Board of Education toured the updated Mitchell High School weight room.

A committee was formed in the spring to push for renovations and advancements to improve the high school’s weight room. Nearly 100 businesses and individuals contributed to the project that had its official open house in September.

Activities Director Geoff Gross showed school board members the updated space. “I feel pretty good putting this weight room up against any other one in the state,” Gross said.

Gross said there was about $160,000 raised for the entire project. He pointed out two names that have been enshrined on the weight room’s walls, both former doctors who’ve been Mitchell High School athletic supporters: Dr. Robert McWhirter and the late Keith “Doc” Fitzpatrick.

“This looks outstanding,” board member Dana Price said. “I expect we should see the byproduct of this in the coming years.”

The board also looked at other cosmetic changes Mitchell High School has undergone since the beginning of the school year. “We’ve done some things to modernize our building,” firstyear high school principal Joe Childs said. “We want to be proud of our school.”

The school had its commons room repainted and main office updated with some new wallpaper and repainting. Childs also explained there has been landscaping work completed around the school and the entry way into the main doors has been changed.

Where there used to be steps and a separated ramp leading into the building on the west side main entrance, there is now a completely sloped ramp. The school had its steps taken out and put new concrete down.


The board, as a part of the consent agenda, approved the following personnel items:

  • New hires (MTI): Jamie Bernard, Bethanie Boger, Pamela Brewer, Teri Chapman, Kim Cypher, Patricia Davenport, Donna DeNure, Sandra Frandsen, Kimberly Hargens, Kandice Hoffman, Donnell Houx, Tara Johnson, Dorothy Larson, Candice Lee, Laura Scholten, Nita Schumacher, Marsha Smoker and Penny Walker, all hired as a speech language pathology assistant mentors for the fall 2013 semester with a compensation of $500.
  • New hire: (extra-curricular): Anna Bartscher, assistant show choir pit director; $1,898.
  • Resignations: Nathan DeGeese, seventh-grade social students/language arts, sophomore boys’ basketball coach; Brenda Lange, food service; Erin Olson, sophomore girls basketball coach; Peggy Sourile, high school library assistant.
  • Transfers: Erin Olson, from sophomore girls’ basketball coach to sophomore boys’ basketball coach; Carolyn Sivik, from Longfellow library assistant to high school assistant; Ryan Stahle to high school show choir pit director.
  • New hires (Classified): Nicole Beukelman, library assistant, 7.5 hours daily at $10.50 an hour; Carrie Grosz, food service/cook, 7.5 hours daily at $10.25 an hour; David Grosz, maintenance, eight hours daily at $12.50 an hour; Dianne Mack, food service/cook, 5.5 hours daily at $9.99 an hour.

Other business

In other items Monday, the Board of Education:

  • Recognized blue-ribbon winners from the South Dakota State Fair and announced Mitchell as the first-place winner in the AA Division.
  • Presented Caleb Lee, a seventh-grade art student, a plaque for his art project that was sent to Crayola.
  • Approved the consent agenda.
  • Approved MTI supplemental budgets.
  • Discussed Mitchell School District’s stances on the Associated School Board of South Dakota’s standing positions prior to the Nov. 22 delegates meeting in Pierre.
  • Heard board member Neil Putnam discuss his trips to Wyoming and Tennessee for regional and national school board meetings.
  • Heard input from Mitchell resident Steve Sibson on Common Core standards.