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78 percent of MHS grads going on to postsecondary school

The Mitchell School District has achieved many of the goals it set in its annual report card. The report shows that 95 percent of Mitchell High School students graduate, and 78 percent pursuing a postsecondary education, according to Superintende...

The Mitchell School District has achieved many of the goals it set in its annual report card.

The report shows that 95 percent of Mitchell High School students graduate, and 78 percent pursuing a postsecondary education, according to Superintendent Joe Graves at the school board's regular meeting on Monday at Longfellow Elementary.

Joe Childs, principal of MHS, believes these numbers reflect the good relationship the school has with its students.

"The fact that our staff and the administration know their students by name and welcome them to the school has a huge impact on their attendance," Childs said. "Even students that do not have to be at school during a certain block of time spend time in our building or in the library because they like to be here."

The report further shows that 72 percent of Mitchell High School students were proficient or advanced in reading and 54 percent were proficient or advanced in mathematics, exceeding the district's goal by two and three percentage points, respectively. These numbers also exceed the state averages by eight and 14 percentage points, respectively.

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Mitchell graduates continue to earn significantly higher grades, about a B average or 3.0 GPA in their freshman year of college, compared to their South Dakota counterparts.

In the Mitchell School District, student enrollment is at its highest level in a decade, with a total of 2,791 students in K-12. The elementary schools are seeing a reduction in student numbers, while student numbers are up at the middle and high school.

The number of students with special education needs has also increased for the fourth consecutive year, with a total of 460 students enrolled in special education, up 12 students from the prior year. There are 290 of those students who have a specific learning disability or a language impairment.

The uptrend of students enrolled in special education is a recognized trend across the state, and could lead to short-term financial difficulties for the district, Graves said during the meeting.

"If the school district can't afford to pay for the services that have to be provided due to a larger then expected percentage of students with special needs, it can go to what is called an extraordinary cost fund. What's happening now, based on rising enrollments of special ed kids statewide is, that this fund is receiving more claims than it has money," Graves said.

Taking funds out of the district's general fund to pay for these services would not be a viable solution, believes Graves.

"That can't happen or otherwise you would be robbing Peter to pay Paul. So what they have now on the state level is a task force that is working on the issues we are seeing with the extraordinary cost fund," Graves said.

The district's general fund cash reserves fell from 22.6 percent to 21.8 percent as of the end of the fiscal year. While this balance is still considered healthy by the district, Graves recommends to take steps to return the fund balance to 25 percent in the future.

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Other business

In other business, the board:

• Approved the consent agenda, including board minutes; claims; open enrollment and conflicts of interest.

• Unanimously passed board policy 1071, which is the extracurricular participation code of conduct and academic requirements.

• Recognized the staff of the Rosedale School for its ESEA Nationally Distinguished School status.

Personnel items

• Graves informed the board that Vicki Harmdierks will be retiring from her position as the principal of Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary effective Dec. 31, 2018.

• The board approved the following personnel items, as part of the consent agenda:

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• New certified hires: Riley Berggren, head eighth-grade girls basketball coach.

• New classified hires: Rhonda Hartman, general food service worker at Mitchell High School; Justice Morrison, head eighth-grade boys basketball coach; Chayna Jones, para-educator at Gertie Belle Rogers.

• Resignations: Josh Vlasman, food service worker at Mitchell High School; Courtney Lau, para-educator at L.B. Williams.

• Sixth-class assignment, second semester: Sara Steckel.

• Mitchell Technical Institute resignation: Tim Pranger, instructor, effective Nov. 15.

Related Topics: SCHOOL BOARD
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