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Johnson still recovering from stroke

Elected in June, Mitchell School Board member Rick Johnson is unsure whether he can serve out his three-year term after suffering a stroke Dec. 29. (File photo)

There is no question Rick Johnson is an active member of the community.

The 51-year-old Johnson is a member of the Mitchell Board of Education, a member of the Knights of Columbus and helps lead a local chapter of Boy Scouts.

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So when Johnson, 51, suffered a stroke Dec. 29, the local community was quick to rally for his support.

"He's doing as well as he can be doing," his wife, Valerie Johnson, told The Daily Republic on Monday night, one day after a benefit in Rick's name was conducted at Mitchell's John Paul II Elementary School. "He's doing better than the neurologists thought he'd be doing. He's getting better, but we'll take it a day at a time and see how things work out."

Valerie Johnson said her husband is recovering at the Mayo Clinic Hospital, St. Mary's Chapter, in Rochester, Minn. Johnson was elected in June and is serving the first year of a three-year term on the Mitchell Board of Education. Monday night was the second regular school board meeting Johnson was unable to attend because of the stroke.

On Dec. 29, Valerie Johnson noticed her husband had symptoms of stroke -- which is an interruption of blood flow to an area of the brain, resulting in the killing of brain cells and brain damage.

"I could see he was walking tippy and the right side of his face was falling down," she said. "I said, 'Rick, it looks like you had a stroke,' and I couldn't hear what he said back. So we drove over to the hospital."

The Johnsons went to the emergency room at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital in Mitchell, and then Rick was airlifted to a hospital in Sioux Falls. He was eventually moved to the Mayo Clinic, where he's recovering now.

Valerie Johnson said her husband is still unable to talk properly, but is "getting better and stronger all the time." She is unsure whether Rick will be able to continue his duties as a school board member when he returns home. Rick and Valerie have six children.

Sunday's event was a joint effort between the Knights of Columbus and John Paul II to benefit the Johnson family.

There was a baked potato feed with a free-will offering at John Paul II Sunday evening.

Nicole Fuhrer, foundation director at John Paul II and friend of the Johnsons, said the event served about 550 people.

"Something like this could happen to any one of us," Fuhrer said. "If that happened to my husband, I can't imagine how we could handle it. So everyone is glad to help."

Fuhrer declined to say how much money the event raised.

"It's wonderful how great Mitchell is," said Valerie Johnson, who added how impressed she was with Mitchell's emergency room staff. "There are so many great people. What a great community."

District loses power

During Monday night's school board meeting, held at the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy building, Superintendent Joe Graves said each of the schools in the district except Gertie Belle Rogers and the Mitchell Middle School lost power during an outage earlier that morning.

During the superintendent's report, Graves explained the district went through normal protocol by contacting the bus company and food service department because of the loss of electricity.

"We had everything prepared," Graves said. "We were out for a while, but nothing serious. No building came anywhere near getting chilly."

Graves also said during the report that there are 18 parents of middle school students who have shown interest in continuing the Mass Customized Learning pilot program for their children as those students enter high school.

MCL is a multi-grade program that creates individualized learning programs for students based on state common core curriculum standards in math, science, social studies and English.

Graves, Middle School Principal Brad Berens and High School Principal Joe Childs will all attend a meeting at 5:30 p.m. today at the middle school to talk with the parents. Graves said anyone is welcome to attend who's interested in learning about the program.

Price learning toward running

Board member Dana Price, whose seat is up for election this year, said after the meeting Monday night that "chances are I'll be taking out a petition again."

Price has not made a decision about whether or not he's running. This July, Price will have served nine years on the Mitchell Board of Education.

Petitions can be taken out March 1 and have to be filed by March 25. The petition to run for the board needs 20 valid, registered signatures from voters of the district to get that person's name on the ballot. The election for the seat will be June 3.

"I like what I do on this board," Price said.

Other business

In other business, board members:

• Announced board members Theresa Kriese and Rick Johnson were absent.

• Adopted a consent agenda that included minutes claims, personnel items and minutes from a regular meeting Jan. 13 and a special meeting Jan. 31.

• Approved a motion to amend the agenda that took out an executive session meeting and a consideration to extend the superintendent's contract and moved both items to a March meeting.

• Approved a resolution on second reading to revise Board Policy 211 -- Board Member Compensation and Expenses, which restores board member compensation to levels prior to cuts two years ago; those revisions now include compensation for no more than 40 per diem events per year for a total maximum annual allocation of $2,400 per member, not including reimbursements for travel.

• Approved the K-12 calendar for the 2014-2015 school year, which will be 176 days of school starting on Aug. 18; a Christmas break from Dec. 22 to Jan. 2; and the last day of school scheduled for May 22.

• Heard an audit report on the 2012-2013 fiscal year from a representative of Endorf, Lurken and Olsen, a Mitchell accounting firm that showed "a clean report," according to Jonathan Guenthner, who works for the firm.

• Heard board member reports from Neil Putnam and Deb Olson about recent meetings they attended.

• Noted Linda Doescher's retirement, saying the first-grade teacher at Longfellow has been with the district, "a very, very, very long time" and that she has produced incredible results.

Personnel changes

Resignations: Jamie Becker, special education/middle school, effective end of 2013-14 school year; Briana Wirth, math-computers/middle school, effective end of 2013-14 school year; Craig Kucha, night custodian/LBW, effective Jan. 24; Gregg Neppell, ADBC instructor/MTI, effective May 17; Jenna Garton, CDC staff, effective Feb. 28; Jill Murphy, retention coordinator/MTI, effective May 30.

New hires (MTI): Tarisa Jacobs, CDC staff, starting Jan. 16, $9 hourly; Patti Boomsa, CDC staff, starting Feb. 26, $9 hourly; Jeanice Miskimins, human services instructor, starting Feb. 28, $45,000.

Retirement: Linda Doescher, first grade, Longfellow, effective, end of 2013-14 school year.