The Mitchell Board of Education on Monday evening approved a pair of moves that will help boost efficiency and maintain food service participation.

The board approved the purchase of three new commercial-grade dishwashers from IS Restaurant Design and Supply of Sioux Falls. The three Hobart brand dishwashers will help improve efficiency in a number of areas of the food service program, according to Leann Carmody, food service director for the Mitchell School District.

“These are not single door dishwashers,” Carmody said. “They will be the conveyor-belt type, and they’re much more efficient in terms of water, labor and everything.”

Joe Graves, superintendent for the district, said he had to reject a bid for a set of Jackson brand dishwashers from the same company because the models did not meet certain specifications. There are also no nearby dealers for Jackson dishwashers in the event the equipment breaks down or needs maintenance.

The bid for the three Hobart dishwashers, which the board approved by unanimous vote, came in at $122,607.24. The rejected bid for the Jackson dishwashers was for $92,526.14.

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The board also approved renewing its membership in the Eastern South Dakota Food Buying Group, a collective of schools of which Mitchell is a part that pools food purchasing power and reduces food service costs for the districts involved.

Steve Culhane, business manager for the district, did not have specific figures on how much the program has saved the district over the years, but he did say that it was a significant amount.

“I don’t have exact numbers, but I know it’s in the thousands that we’ve saved,” Culhane told the board.

Graves said the program has allowed the district to expand its food service menu, which helps boost participation in the food service program. The program has also allowed the district to maintain a high standard of food quality, he said.

“We’ve been part of this group the last four years and have saved a significant amount of dollars. It also allows us to access different kinds of foods, which is important for increasing participation,” Graves said “It’s been nothing but an unparalleled success.”

The board approved the membership by unanimous vote.

COVID-19 update

In his regular report to the board, Graves said that despite a decline in active cases of COVID-19 in South Dakota, he noted that he plans to stay at Tier 2 for extra-curricular activities, which currently allows for limited attendance by family at athletic and other events for family members. A move to Tier 1 would allow far more people to attend those events, but Graves said it was prudent to stay the course with the current level of restrictions.

“First of all, my priorities in this matter is to keep kids safe. The second priority is to have them physically present in school,” Graves said. “Remaining at Tier 2 gives us the best shot at keeping those priorities.”

He said his own discussions with health care providers also informed him that staying at Tier 2 at this time was appropriate.

He said about 5% of school personnel had received COVID-19 vaccinations, with more scheduled to become available to more employees in early March. That’s also a good sign of progress, Graves said, and hopefully a indicator that crowds will once again be able to enjoy and support athletics and extra-curriculars in person instead of live streams.

“It’d love to move to Tier 1 to allow (more attendance). I think it’s ironic that, in my memory, we’ve never had all of our winter activities be as successful as they have been. So, it’s ironic that it’s this year that we can’t allow more in,” Graves said.

The Mitchell School District opened the school 2020-21 school year under Tier 2 for activities.

Personnel

The board approved the following personnel moves:

  • The new classified hires of Madison Daley, administrative assistant at L.B. Williams Elementary, $13.50, effective Jan. 14; April Charging Hawk, general food service worker at L.B. Williams Elementary, $12.75, effective Jan. 19 and Rita Beckman, paraeducator at Mitchell Middle School, $12.50, effective Jan. 25.

  • The transfers of Kayla Hohbach, kitchen helper at 5.5 hours at Mitchell High School to kitchen head cook at seven hours at Mitchell High School and Kylee Auch, 0.5 Title I at L.B. Williams Elementary to 1.0 Title I at L.B. Williams Elementary.

  • The resignations of Mari Hoeltzner, food service, effective Jan. 11; Jessica Cross, general food service worker at Mitchell Middle School, effective Jan. 22; David Suarez, head cook at Mitchell High School, effective Jan. 29; Lee White, 7th grade girls basketball coach, effective end of 2020-21 school year pending suitable replacement; Darci Winthers, 7th grade girls assistant girls basketball coach, effective end of 2020-21 school year pending suitable replacement and Amy Hurley, food service worker at Mitchell Middle School, effective Feb. 16.

  • The MTC revised contracts of Chris Degen, faculty, $55,300; Sarah Ellis, faculty, 47,134 and Devon Russell, faculty, $59,490. All revised contracts are effective Aug. 1, 2020.

  • The MTC resignation of Julie Brookbank, vice-president for foundation relations, effective Feb. 15.

Other business

Also at the meeting, the board:

  • Declared MTC site house surplus in order that it may be sold. The house will be advertised and sold by sealed bid, with the bid opening on March 25. The minimum bid that will be accepted is $365,000. If the house does not sell via sealed bid, the district will list it with a realtor at that time.

  • Heard board member reports.

The next meeting of the Mitchell Board of Education is scheduled for March 8 at 5 p.m.