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Mitchell School District surveys public on superintendent preferences

Public input intended to help guide new administrator search

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The Mitchell School District is seeking feedback from the public on its search for a new district superintendent.
Mitchell School District Website Screenshot
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MITCHELL — The Mitchell School District has reached out to its patrons for their priorities, wants and needs with a new district superintendent.

The survey was announced late last week on the district website and through the Mitchell School District app.

“The School Board recognizes that selecting the next Superintendent of Schools is one of their most important decisions,” the message reads. “Dakota (Education) Consulting (DEC) has been contracted by the Mitchell school board to facilitate the search for your next superintendent. Part of that process is to gather input from district stakeholders regarding characteristics and qualities you are looking for in the next Mitchell superintendent.”

“Joe is a wonderful fit to lead our Department of Education and to help me achieve our goal of making South Dakota the leader for K-12 education in the nation,” Noem said in a statement.

The message includes a link to a survey and five questions, with the message asking those filling out the survey to indicate their relationship to the district, whether that be parent, staff, student or member of the public. Other questions include:

  • What qualities will be important for your next Superintendent to possess? This question is followed by a list of characteristics and asks that the participant select their top choice.
  • How would you prioritize the following characteristics for the next Superintendent? The participant is then asked to rank several options in order from 1 through 10, with one being the most important.
  • How will you determine the Superintendent's success after one year on the job? The participant is then asked to select their top choice out of multiple answers.
  • When you think of the Mitchell School District, what are you most proud of? The participant can select one answer from one of a multiple choice group.

The information garnered from the survey will be used to help guide the school superintendent search committee and the search firm in their hunt for a new administrator. The survey is completely confidential, according to the message.
“(The survey) is completely confidential. Your input will assist the board with the selection of candidates to interview,” the message reads.

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Deb Olson, president of the Mitchell Board of Education, said use of the survey was selected because it had been so long since the district has had to hire a new superintendent that the committee felt it should poll the public to get an overview of public sentiment on the matter.

“Given that Dr. Graves had been here for 22 and a half years and we had not looked for a superintendent (in that time), we felt that it was important to get the community and public, whether they were parents or community members, feedback on what we were looking for, or what we should be looking for in a new superintendent,” Olson said.

The message first hit the Mitchell School District app and its website last week, and Olson said the search committee requested it be up and polling the public for three weeks. Information will be sent back to the search committee for consideration on potential interview candidates.

The poll asks those filling it out to identify their relationship to the district, such as students, faculty or general members of the public. That will allow the committee to see what different categories of patrons consider important characteristics and skills when it comes to the superintendent search.

Olson said that if district patrons feel they want to give more input on the subject beyond answering the five questions in the survey, they can reach out to Mitchell Board of Education members on the board’s page on the Mitchell School District website. That page can be found at www.mitchell.k12.sd.us/page/school-board-members.

"If someone feels that the survey doesn't allow them to give the feedback that they would like to give, they are welcome to email board members with additional feedback," Olson said.

The Mitchell School District has been on the hunt for a new superintendent since longtime top administrator Joe Graves announced he was leaving his position to take on a new role as the secretary of education for South Dakota. He officially began his duties with the state Jan. 10 but is dedicating part of his resources to helping the Mitchell School District with superintendent duties until Jan. 31.

Graves had been with the district for over 22 years.

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Earlier this month, the Mitchell Board of Education appointed Joe Childs, principal at Mitchell High School, to serve as interim superintendent until a permanent replacement for Graves could be found. Olson said the search committee hopes to begin full-time superintendent candidate interviews sometime in March.

Childs was one of three interviewed for the interim job

The board has also selected Dakota Education Consulting to spearhead efforts to find a new superintendent. The search profile can be found on the company's website, where it describes the open position as "School District Superintendent with other duties as assigned by the school board, based on district needs and the expertise of the selected candidate with a salary range of $160,000-$180,000 to be determined based on education and experience."

The new superintendent would officially take over duties July 1. The Mitchell Board of Education is scheduled to meet for its next regular meeting Monday, Feb. 13.

The survey can be accessed through the Mitchell School District website at www.mitchell.k12.sd.us, through the Mitchell School District app or by visiting www.surveymonkey.com/r/KRLJMNY.

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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