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Mitchell Board of Education accepts resignation of Graves, begins interim, permanent superintendent search

Special meeting to interview interim candidates, search firms set for Jan. 12

Mitchell Superintendent Joe Graves speaks to family and friends while 14 Mitchell High School seniors prepare take part in the school's "Future Teacher Signing Day" event on Monday morning in the school's cafeteria. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Mitchell Superintendent Joe Graves speaks to family and friends while 14 Mitchell High School seniors prepare take part in the school's "Future Teacher Signing Day" in the school's cafeteria in this 2019 file photo.
Mitchell Republic File Photo
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MITCHELL — The Mitchell Board of Education has accepted the resignation of Joe Graves, superintendent for the district, and set the wheels in motion for finding a new top administrator for the Mitchell School District.

The board made the decision Monday evening at its meeting at the Mitchell Career & Technical Education Academy.

After entering into an executive session for approximately 50 minutes Monday night, the board moved to select a search firm to help with the superintendent selection process. They will be selecting between two firms to help with the search for the full-time superintendent position and will move to select an interim superintendent without the use of a selection firm.

To formally begin that process, the Mitchell Board of Education will now hold a special meeting Thursday evening, Jan. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Mitchell Career & Technical Education Academy for the purpose of interviewing potential interim superintendent candidates as well as search firms that may assist in the search for a permanent superintendent.

The candidate interviews are expected to be conducted in executive session, while the search firm interviews will be conducted in open session, Steve Culhane, business manager for the district, confirmed Tuesday afternoon. Decisions on both selections could be made following those interviews, he said.

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Deb Olson, president of the Mitchell Board of Education, said Monday night the board had received suggestions for three candidates for the interim position, from both inside and outside the district. She said the board would likely hold a special meeting, tentatively set for Thursday evening, with an executive session to interview candidates and potentially make a selection afterward in open session.

The board will then move on to select a search firm to help with the process. It is considering two firms: Dakota Consulting and Grundmeyer Leader Services.

“The board has some candidates for interim that have been suggested, and we’re going to, as a board, interview those interim candidates, we’re hoping to do that yet this week. And then we will move forward with interviewing some consulting firms to determine which consulting firm we would hire to move forward with advertising and filling the permanent position,” Olson said following the meeting.

Olson said Graves delegated responsibilities usually under the auspices of the superintendent office to other district individuals until an interim superintendent is in place.

“It’s a mixture of both (candidates from inside and outside the district), and so far we have three (candidates). Dr. Graves has said he is going to continue working until the end of the month, so in terms of day to day he has already done some directing as to who is going to take those responsibilities. He’s delegating,” Olson said.

Other members of the board agreed that it was not necessary to use a consulting firm to place the interim candidate. There was some discussion on whether it was necessary to use one for the permanent replacement search as well, but in the end the board voted unanimously to review the current search firms to see if they would fit the needs of the district.

The board has an important task ahead of it, Olson said. It will be the first time in over 20 years the board has searched for a superintendent, and getting the right candidate is paramount to the success and smooth operation of the district.

“There’s much work to be done,” Olson said.

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Graves left the meeting following the superintendent review portion of the executive session and prior to the board’s discussion on a potential successor, stating he was departing for Pierre either Monday evening or Tuesday morning.

He told the Mitchell Republic he would miss the superintendent position in Mitchell but was confident that the board would find a qualified interim and permanent replacement.

“I know they will. Mitchell has a great reputation, and people would definitely want to come here and provide leadership. I don't know what the board is considering or doing or anything else, but the agenda is kind of wide open for them to make that decision,” Graves said.

It is both an exciting and bittersweet moment for Graves, he said, but he is excited to move forward to the next phase of his career.

“It’s very bittersweet. I have loved being the superintendent of Mitchell and I love the school district. So it’s very hard to leave, obviously there are new challenges ahead and I want to go into those with enthusiasm and a positive attitude, and I’m going to do that. But yeah, it’s tough to leave,” Graves said.

Gov. Kristi Noem announced last week that Graves had been selected to become the new Secretary of Education for South Dakota and that he had accepted the position. Graves told the Mitchell Republic he will remain full-time with the district until Jan. 9, after which he will serve in an advisory role through the end of the month as the district works to find a successor.

Graves begins his work as secretary of education Jan. 10. He will remain with the Mitchell School District through Jan. 31 in a part-time advisory role to help with his exit transition. Steve Culhane, business manager for the district, said Graves will be paid through the end of the month.

Culhane retirement, Kriese hire approved

As part of the personnel approval process, the board also approved the retirement of Culhane and the hire of his replacement, Theresa Kriese, after both moves were delayed at the board’s January meeting after board members expressed concern that the position was not advertised prior to a contract being offered.

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Graves said after the January meeting that the position had then been advertised through the district website, the city of Mitchell website and the Associated School Boards of South Dakota website.

Personnel

Also at the meeting, the board approved the following personnel moves:

  • The new administrative hire of Theresa Kriese, business manager, $130,000, effective July 1.
  • The new certified hires of Cassey VerHey, head 7th grade girls basketball coach, $2,122 and Christina Siemsen, sophomore girls basketball coach, $3,470. Both hires are effective for the 2022-23 school year.
  • The new classified hires of Katelyn Albertz, paraeducator at L.B. Williams Elementary, $15 per hour, effective Dec. 19, Gabrielle Poling, paraeducator at Mitchell Middle School, $15 per hour, effective Jan. 11, 2023 and Amelia Rew, assistant gymnastics coach, $3,470, effective for the 2022-23 school year.
  • The resignation/retirement of Joseph Graves, superintendent, effective Jan. 31, 2023; Steve Culhane, business manager, effective June 30, 2023 and Cathy Horan, business office - accounts receivable, effective for the 2022-23 school year.
  • The resignations of Danielle Schoenfeld, Begindergarten at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary, effective end of the 2022-23 school year; Laura Baus, paraeducator at Longfellow Elementary, Nov. 18, 2023; Amanda Klein, paraeducator at Mitchell Middle School, Jan. 3, 2023 and Bob Lemon, head girls soccer coach, effective end of the 2022-23 school year.
  • The transfer of Charlene Hilkemeier, paraeducator at L.B. Williams Elementary 7 hours to paraeducator at Longfellow Elementary 7 hours, effective pending suitable replacement at L.B. Williams Elementary.
  • The Mitchell Technical College new hires of Daryl Bird, student success coach, $24,205, effective Jan. 3, 2023; Fred Flannegan, MTC maintenance, $24,435.48, effective Jan. 9, 2023; Roby Henglefelt, MTC custodial, $18.18 per hour, effective Jan. 9, 2023; Parker Johnson, MTC student worker, $13.50 per hour, effective Jan. 9; Elizabeth A. Luczak, adjunct registered nursing clinical instructor, $5,950, effective Jan. 5, 2023; Janet Nicolaus, adjunct administrative office specialist - digital media concepts, $2,250, effective Jan. 9 and Abbie Reynen, adjunct registered nursing - microbiology, $3,000, effective Jan. 9, 2023.
  • The Mitchell Technical College spring additional courses of Sarah Ellis, fundamentals of speech, $2,250; Tyler Hockett, managerial accounting, $2,250; Annika Russell-Manke, federal taxation, $2,250 and Ryan Van Zee, intro to human resource management, $2,250.
  • The contract revision of Seth Hastings, MTC maintenance, $26,500, effective Jan. 1, 2023.
  • The Mitchell Technical College resignations of Sarah Raml, adjunct registered nursing clinical instructor, effective Dec. 16, 2022 and Lisa Larson, instructions support specialist, effective Jan. 10, 2023.

Other business

Also at the meeting, the board:

  • Made an addition to the Mitchell Technical College faculty and staff handbooks.
  • Set date for the joint school/county election for June 6, 2023. The seat currently held by Matt Christiansen will be up for election.
  • Appointed a member of the board as a Legislative Action Network representative.
  • Heard board member reports.
  • Heard the superintendent report. Including a plan to deal with the excessive number of snow days already experienced by the school district this year. The current plan is to make up the four days missed so far on May 22, 23, 24 and 25. Should another missed day occur that day will be made up on May 26. Further missed days could be made up through e-learning or virtual instruction.
  • Heard public commentary.

The next regular meeting of the board is scheduled for Feb. 13.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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