By The Daily Republic Editorial Board
Once again, Mitchell School District Superintendent Joe Graves is considering a run for the Legislature, and once again, we don't think permission should be granted by the Mitchell Board of Education.
Back in 2008, Graves broached the idea with the board. It eventually fizzled.
Now, the proposal is back, and Graves is seeking approval from the board to allow him to run as a Republican in 2014.
As we said five years ago, the board should not allow him to seek office, based upon his signed contract. Item No. 6 on the contract states that Graves "agrees that in consideration of the payment to him of the compensation and other benefits as hereinabove specified he will, during the entire term of his contract, devote his entire time, attention, skill and learning to the faithful performance of his duties of superintendent of schools for the district. ..."
We cannot see how Graves can "devote his entire time, attention, skill and learning" to the district if he is in Pierre two months out of a nine-month school year. We urge the board to consider this before granting Graves' request.
Graves earns good money for the job he capably performs. The annual salary listed on his most recent contract is $113,587, and he gets other benefits, such as medical and dental insurance. Even if Graves' pay were docked for his two-month absence, it still doesn't make it right. He's been hired to supervise the district, and that can't be done from Pierre.
This isn't about Graves' abilities. At the risk of sounding politically slanted, he could be a strong legislator. We just don't think he should be allowed to do it while overseeing the school district.
Yes, teachers have served in the past, but our district has many teachers. It only has one superintendent, and only one person in the district is paid so well and expected to deliver so much.
We asked for a copy of Graves' contract, and the request was promptly granted. We also asked for his response to our questions about the wording of his contract, and here is his answer:
"That particular language is common to many superintendent and other administrative contracts. My understanding of it is that it is directed to the occasional administrator who opens up a second 'line of business' such as consulting, public speaking, employee search or other private businesses. It's not a common problem but common enough that schools sought to foreclose those with this language.
"Nevertheless, the idea of 'being able to do my job' while serving as a legislator is a reasonable issue. Hence the requirement that the board receive a request from an administrator in order to do this, with the ability of the Board to make that call (policy 746). Additionally, you will notice in the law that this offers school employees specific rights to run for office unless it involves a neglect of duty, which again then falls to the purview of the board to decide.
"This is something I would really like to do, that I think I can be good at, and that can serve the people of South Dakota well. (Sorry if that sounds like politicking.) So I'm going to take a shot at it and see if I can make a case to the board for my being able to continue to serve as superintendent while serving in the role of legislator as other school employees of Mitchell have done in the past."