Weather Forecast


Mitchell school board OKs nearly $25 million 2013-14 budget

Deb Olson, left, and Rick Johnson, right, took their seats on the Mitchell Board of Education during a regular meeting Monday afternoon at the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy. Johnson and Olson took over for Eric Christensen and Brenda Freidel. Pictured at center is Superintendent Joe Graves. (Jordan Steffen/Daily Republic)

In its last action of 2012-2013 fiscal year, the outgoing Mitchell Board of Education unanimously approved a $24.865 million K-12 budget for the coming school year.

The regularly scheduled meeting was held Monday at the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy.

School district Business Manager Steve Culhane said the new budget will cost the owner of a $100,000 home in the district about $943.50 per year. That's an estimated increase of $41.70, or 4.62 percent more than the 2012-13 tax of $901.80.

The budget includes a general fund of $15,153,192; a capital outlay fund of $4,240,969; a special education fund of $3,548,720; a pension fund of $321,960; and a food service fund of $1,600,742.

The board did not include $400,000 in opt-out funds that were part of an earlier preliminary budget, but a portion of the district's opt-out may come into play in September if higher-than-expected student counts materialize, Culhane said.

Last year was the first time assessed property valuations within the Mitchell School District boundaries broke the $1 billion mark at $1.047 billion. This year, total property valuations are expected to rise another $34.40 million or 3.29 percent to $1.081 billion.

Subs get a raise

As part of its first agenda for the 2013-2014 school year, the new board voted unanimously to raise substitute teacher wages.

"It's been five years since we've given our substitute teachers a raise," said Superintendent Joe Graves. "It was getting to the point where we were becoming noncompetitive."

The new salary schedule for subs increases pay for certified substitute teachers from $80 to $100 a day. Subs who have an expired teaching certificate -- from any state -- who previously were paid $70 a day, will now get $90 a day; and non-certified subs will see pay go from $65 to $75 a day.

"Subs are getting harder to find these days," said Graves in a pre-meeting telephone interview. Higher-paying jobs in the community were beginning to draw away available substitute teachers, Graves added.

"If we can stay even with the districts around us, I think we'll be OK," he said.

Common Core, sentinel concerns

During the meeting's public commentary segment, Mitchell resident Steve Sibson expressed concern about the pending statewide adoption of common core curriculum standards.

"It's my belief that common core is not about the quality of education, but the control of our kids," Sibson said.

"Common core is not the way to go," agreed Graves, who said the district is being forced into preparing curricula to meet the new standards. Graves said after the meeting the move to common core standards in math, English and other subjects in the future is a move toward a federal curriculum.

On another subject, Sibson also noted a new state law allows school districts to appoint armed security sentinels. Sibson offered his services as a school sentinel. Sibson offered to become trained for the volunteer duty at his own expense.

The board made no comment on the offer.

Olson, Johnson sworn in

Finally, in a pre-meeting reception for outgoing board members, Brenda Freidel and Eric Christensen wished new board members Deb Olson and Rick Johnson success in their new offices.

Olson and Johnson were elected in June's school board election and were sworn in to take the spots vacated by Freidel and Christensen, who did not seek re-election.

Freidel and Christensen said they enjoyed their six years in office and felt the board played a part in improving the district and helping to make Mitchell Technical Institute one of the nation's top technology schools.

The board also:

--Administered the oath of office to new board members Debra Olson and Rick Johnson.

--Unanimously re-elected Theresa Kriese as board president; and Dana Price as vice president.

--Raised all lunch prices in district schools by 10 cents. Superintendent Graves said the small increase is needed to help offset the additional expense caused by new federal nutrition guidelines. Graves said the new regulations are softening the student demand for school food because some students don't like the menu choices. Board member Neil Putnam complemented Food Service Director Sean Moen for doing his best to accommodate the new regulations. New prices for breakfast and lunch will be: elementary school, $1.60, $2.40; middle school, $1.75, $2.60; and high school, $1.85; $2.60. Adults will pay $2.05 for breakfast and $3.45 for lunch.

--Voted not to raise activity fees for the coming school year. Fees will remain $3 for students; $5 for adults; and $40 for an annual activity pass.

--Approved a low bid of $201,036 from J & P Roofing, of Dell Rapids, for roof repairs at Mitchell Technical Institute to repair damage from the May 2012 hail storm.

MTI President Greg Von Wald said, "I'm tickled to death the new Trades Center Building is done and we are starting to move in." Von Wald invited all to a 4 p.m. Sept. 17 open house event at the new building,

Graves said workmen will replace the defective terrazzo flooring in the worst two second-floor classrooms at Longfellow Elementary School this summer. Crews will replace the remainder of second-floor terrazzo in the summer of 2015; and on the first floor in summer 2015.

--Approved membership in the the Associated School Boards of South Dakota and payment of annual dues of $2,378.

Approved the following personnel items:

--New hires (extracurricular): Rob Marchand and Mark Horan as co-boys' golf coaches, $3,227 each; Joshua Paulson, assistant girls' soccer coach, $1,500 -- all for the 2013-14 school year.

--21st Century grant coordinator: Beth Kopfman, $9,425, This position handles before - and after school tutoring programs.

--New hire: Jennifer VanOverschelde, custodian, Mitchell Middle School, eight hours daily at $10.25 an hour.

--Resignation: Gwynne Timmerman, paraeducator, Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School, effective July 3. Timmerman has worked in the district since 1989, said Graves, who called her resignation a loss for the Mitchell district.