Mitchell School District honors longtime employees, bids farewell to retirees

Eleven employees honored as tenure at district comes to an end

Deb Olson, chair of the Mitchell Board of Education, congratulates Craig Mock, assistant principal for Mitchell High School, on his retirement at a district employee recognition event Wednesday, May 3, 2023 at the Performing Arts Center.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — Some had been with the district for 16 years. Others had been with the district for as long as 39 years.

But they all had something in common.

They were all longtime employees who strived to make the Mitchell School District a special place to work and learn, and Wednesday afternoon they gathered at the Mitchell Performing Arts Center to be recognized for their service by their colleagues and district patrons.

“I think the gifts they have and bring, and the knowledge that they’ve gained since they’ve been here, is just invaluable to a district,” Deb Olson, chair of the Mitchell Board of Education and herself a retired educator, told the Mitchell Republic following the event. “We appreciate the time and energy they have devoted to their students, but also that they worked perfecting their knowledge and ability to teach their subject matter and to work with their students.”

The event recognized employees with the district who were celebrating employment milestones, ranging from 15 years to 40 years. The first portion of the program focused on 27 district employees, some of whom marked multiple decades in the classroom or the administration office.


The second portion of the program focused primarily on 11 individuals who were ready to retire from long careers and begin the next phase of their lives. Emotions were showcased as some presenters highlighted humorous stories about their subject employee, while the voice of others cracked as they recalled the impact many of them had on students and staff in their time with the district.

Judy Miiller, who had been with Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary as a school secretary for 23 years, was one of the retirees honored. She praised her fellow employees in her presentation comments, and said she relished seeing the students of Gertie Belle Rogers grow and mature into bright young adults.

“In all my years of working at GBR, I have always been so fortunate to work with the best staff. When I think about the number of students who have passed through our building during my time, it just amazes me. Each student is so unique in their own way,” Miiller wrote. “I have loved watching each one grow from kindergarten to fifth grade and watching them succeed at something they have struggled with is so rewarding.”

Twenty-six years spent at any job will result in good times and bad times, but Miiller said she will remember the highs far more than the lows.

Judy Miiller was one of several Mitchell School District retirees honored Wednesday, May 3 at the Performing Arts Center in Mitchell.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic

“There have been ups and downs, happy and sad, but way more laughs,” Miiller said. “I will miss the amazing staff we have, but it is time to enjoy my family more, including my grandchildren."

Craig Mock, the assistant principal for Mitchell High School who has been with the district for 21 years, was described as a man of few words but myriad positive characteristics. Joe Childs, incoming superintendent for the Mitchell School District, used words like “thorough” and “responsible” to describe Mock, with whom he worked for many years when Childs was high school principal.

Childs used a portion of his remarks about Mock to tease him about an incident in which he asked Mock to order breakfast for a meeting.

“A couple years ago, I needed to be somewhere and I asked him to take care of ordering breakfast. He said he’d take care of it. It was for a meeting, about 10 people. I got the bill for about $470,” Childs said. “He ordered egg bake, bacon, hash browns, scrambled eggs, coffee, everything you could imagine. Pastries. All kinds of stuff. Fact, he is very responsible.”


But despite the good-natured ribbing, Childs said that Mock was more than just a high-quality school administrator. He was a crucial teammate in district leadership and a good friend to everyone he worked with, be they student or staff member.

“He is loyal, I can’t imagine a better teammate,” Childs said. “The last fact is that Mr. Mock is a best friend, and I can’t think of a greater compliment. So thank you.”

Steve Culhane, business manager for the Mitchell School District, will be retiring this year after 39 years with the district. One of the elder statesmen for the district, Culhane has been known to use his memory of his time with the district — which stretches back to the 1980s — to recall changes in school funding practices or the evolution in computing equipment in his office.

But he used it Thursday to honor two fellow business office employees who are also retiring this year: Cathy Horan, who had been with the business office 36 years, and Deb Olson, who has been with the business office for 38 years.

“It has been my pleasure to work with these two gals who are leaving the business office this year,” Culhane said. “Cathy is the rock of our business office. I don’t know how many times someone has asked me something and I’ve told them to please go ask Cathy, because she knows where it’s at and what to do.”

Joe Childs, incoming superintendent for the Mitchell School District, speaks at the distirct employee recognition event Wednesday, May 3 at the Performing Arts Center.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic

He asked the audience to imagine balancing the school district checkbook, which was one of Horan’s responsibilities. When there were times when the figures didn’t add up, she and Culhane would put their heads together to figure it out.

He said they always did.

“We always seemed to find the answer. I’ve enjoyed all of my years with Cathy,” Culhane said. “We will definitely miss her, I’m so glad she didn’t leave last year and that we get to go out at the same time.”


Culhane said that, along with Horan, Olson was another indispensable part of the business office team. Collectively, the trio have over 100 years of experience in the Mitchell School District business office and have worked at three different office locations — from a building just off downtown, to the Mitchell Middle School and then to the current MCTEA building.

He was proud to call both Horan and Olson his colleagues.

“There’s a lot of years walking out the door on June 30, and Deb is just one year less than I was when I hired her back in the fall of 1985,” Culhane told the audience. “It has truly been a pleasure to work with you, I’ve admired you and your attention to detail over the years. Thank you for your 38 years.”

Chairman Olson said that both the longtime employees and the retirees are blessings to the district. She thanked those still working for the district for their dedication to the education of the youth of the community.

And to those who were moving on, she said she would remember them all fondly, even if the years seemed to go by in a blur.

“I wish them the very best in their retirement. But also I look back on them and remember either the time I hired them or their first day of work in the district,” Olson said. “And it is just a reminder to me that time goes and passes quickly. As I commented to many of them, does it seem like it’s been 30 years? No, it went so quickly.”

Those recognized at the program Thursday included:

15 Years

Audra Bormann, Gertie Belle Rogers


Traci Wilson, Gertie Belle Rogers

Beth Haar, L.B. Williams

Lynn Meyer, L.B. Williams

David Miller, Mitchell High School

Katie Murphy, Mitchell High School

Cindy Bierman, MCTEA

Cindy Gerlach, MCTEA

Starette Nash, JVEC


16 Years

Bridget Huber, Gertie Belle Rogers

Mary Pranger, L.B. Williams

20 Years

Pat Cassutt, Gertie Belle Rogers

Jim Bauder, Mitchell Middle School

Anne Moege, Mitchell Middle School

Traci Moore, Mitchell Middle School

Diane Way, Mitchell Middle School

Ryan Stahle, Mitchell High School


Kent VanOverschelde, Mitchell High School

Pat Moller, MCTEA

30 Years

Jacki Roy, Longfellow

Stacy Morgan, L.B. Williams

35 Years

Deb Briggs, Mitchell Middle School

Cathy Horan, MCTEA

40 Years

Damon Bartscher, Longfellow

Lori Schmidt, Mitchell High School

Carl Niefhoff, District


Sherri Becker, District, 16 Years

Mary Pranger, L.B. Williams, 16 Years

Carolyn Sivik, Mitchell High School, 16 Years

Craig Mock, Mitchell High School, 21 Years

Judy Miiller, Gertie Belle Rogers, 23 Years

Stacy Morgan, L.B. Williams, 30 Years

Sandy Sheets, Mitchell Middle School, 31 Years

Donna Ellingson, Mitchell High School, 33 Years

Cathy Horan, Business Office, 36 Years

Deb Olson, Business Office, 38 Years

Steve Culhane, Business Office, 39 Years

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
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