Teachers at Mitchell Middle School will no longer have to rely on their cell phones to make sure classes start and end on time after the Mitchell Board of Education approved a new electronic system to replace the current system, which has become difficult to maintain and repair.

The board made the decision at its most recent meeting, held Jan. 11 by virtual conference.

The current system, which handles intercom, class division bells and synchronizes the clocks in the building, is more than a half-century old and is past due for modernization, John Tyler, principal for Mitchell Middle School, told the board.

“We’ve been working without proper intercom and bells since day one this year,” Tyler said. “It’s been a challenge at times. It will make our teachers’, office staff and students’ lives a lot easier.”

The intercom system is capable of sending mass messages to all classrooms but cannot contact individual rooms at this time, said Tyler. In addition, the school clocks are not synchronized to read the same time throughout the building. That puts pressure on teachers to time out their own classroom periods.

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“Right now we’re depending on our teachers and their cell phones to dismiss classes because we don’t have clocks that say the same time classroom to classroom,” Tyler said. “We can do an all-call throughout the building (using the intercom system), but we can’t call into a specific classroom.”

The new system should ease those problems, he said.

“The communication aspect will be huge, but so will the continuity, with bells for everybody at the end of a specific block. We’re also going to have clocks in the hallways and everything will be synchronized. It should be a system that is going to work for us now and well into the future,” Tyler said.

Joe Graves, superintendent for the Mitchell School District, noted that as a technology project, bidding on the project is not required. He proposed an upgrade to a replacement system by Ban-Koe at a cost of $79,637.17 with installation by Muth Electric at a cost of $29,527 for a total cost of $109,164.17.

The new system will combine all aspects of the current system and is expected to last the remainder of the life of the current middle school building, which Graves estimated to be another 40 to 50 years.

“We probably waited too long as certain aspects of it are not working,” Graves said. “The bell, intercom and the clock system will work in tandem, will be digital and frankly advanced enough that this system would last to the end of the building.”

Graves said installation would begin as soon as possible, with a focus on doing much of the work when it would not interfere with classes and factoring in the schedule of Muth Electric, which would handle the installation. He said the new system fixtures would directly replace the current ones wherever possible to avoid creating holes in the walls and other issues.

The board approved the new system from Ban-Koe, with installation by Muth Electric, by unanimous vote.

ACT tests averages

As part of his superintendent’s report, Graves gave the board a final update on the most recent district report card. Graves discussed some of the report at a previous meeting, but a final portion of the report concerning ACT testing and some other factors were not available at the time.

He noted that the average 2019 Mitchell High School student score on the ACT for the 2019-20 school year was 22.7. That was down from the previous year at 23.5, but up from two years ago when the average score was 22, and even with three years ago at 22.7.

This year’s average score is above the state average score of 22 and the national average score of 20.8, which has been a common trend over the years, Graves said.

The report also indicated that the Mitchell High School class of 2019 which attended post-secondary schools earned a 3.19 GPA average and earned 27.7 credits, which is also above the state average of 2.98 and 26.9 for the same period.

Mitchell High School students attending regental universities for a second semester stood at 94.8%, also above the state average of 83.5%.

The board took no action on the information.

Personnel

The board approved the following personnel moves at the meeting:

  • The new classified hire of Ranae Duncan, para educator at Mitchell Middle School, $14 per hour, effective Jan. 11.

  • The new Mitchell Technical College hire of Roxane Hunt, nursing clinical adjunct instructor (spring semester 2021), $6,160, effective Jan. 11, and Sarah Morgan, accounts payable and financial specialist, $17 per hour, effective Jan. 18.

  • The Mitchell Technical College resignation of Seth Weeman, instructor of precision ag technology, effective Feb. 19.

Other business

Also Monday, the board:

  • Approved of the 2021-22 K-12 school calendar. The first day of school will be Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.

  • Offered a new three-year contract to Joe Graves, superintendent of the Mitchell School District. The board traditionally makes a decision on the superintendent contract during the same board meeting as the conference on the superintendent evaluation. The decision has typically been made without consideration of compensation, a decision that is made later when administration compensation is determined by the board in the spring.

  • Accepted the audit report for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

  • Conducted the annual evaluation of the superintendent in executive session. The review will take place under executive session as it is for the purpose of “discussion the qualifications, competence, character or fitness of any public officer or employee or prospective public officer or employee.” No action was taken by the board upon return to open session.

The next meeting of the board is scheduled for Feb. 8.