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School board pledges $75K to tennis court project

Mitchell is a bit closer to having four new tennis courts, following school board support for the project. During their regular meeting Monday at the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy, members of the Mitchell Board of Education vote...

Mitchell is a bit closer to having four new tennis courts, following school board support for the project.

During their regular meeting Monday at the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy, members of the Mitchell Board of Education voted to pledge $75,000 to the project. Superintendent Joe Graves said the the pledge will be paid $25,000 per year over a three-year period, and will come out of the Mitchell School District's capital outlay fund.

A city project brought to life by the Mitchell Tennis Association, the plan is to increase the amount of tennis courts at Hitchcock Park from eight to 12. It was originally pitched to the City Council in June, and received city support in the form of a $125,000 contribution to the project. In March, those plans changed when the low bid for the project came in at $305,000-$55,000 over the $250,000 budgeted for the project.

That $305,000 would fund the construction of the four new courts and the relocation of the existing baseball diamond at Hitchcock Park, which would need to be moved to Northridge Park to make room for the courts.

Mitchell's schools use the city's tennis courts for its 7-12 tennis programs, which Graves called an example of the "many, positive partnerships between the Mitchell School District and the city of Mitchell." He said the new courts would allow for "significantly enhanced practice times" and more attractive and efficient facilities for tennis meets.

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Board member Neil Putnam, city planner for Mitchell, abstained from the vote. Putnam attended the meeting telephonically. The rest of the school board members voted in favor of the pledge.

"I think you could argue, around town, in a lot of different areas, there should be more of these types of joint efforts toward projects. I think it's a great thing, and I fully support it," board member Cory Aadland said.

Gateway settlement reached

A long legal battle between a technology company gone bankrupt and the state of South Dakota, some of its school districts and other entities is drawing to a close. On Monday, the school board granted authorization to South Dakota Secretary of Education Dr. Melody Schopp to execute a settlement agreement and mutual release on behalf of the Mitchell School District regarding claims against Gateway Companies Inc. and others.

The settlement stipulates the defendants pay $525,000 in the settlement. Graves emphasized all of that will be paid by the state, and none of the money will come from the Mitchell School District. The defendants are the state of South Dakota, the executive branch of the state of South Dakota, the South Dakota Bureau of Information and Telecommunications, the South Dakota Department of Social Services and a number of school districts across the state, as well as "any other state of South Dakota entity that received computers and equipment as part of the Classroom Connect project."

Area school districts represented by the state in the lawsuit include Armour, Bridgewater-Emery, Canistota, Parkston, Wagner Community, Wessington Springs and White Lake.

Dan Muck, director of technology and security for the school district, said the legal battle stemmed from a program that started under former Gov. Mike Rounds called Classroom Connections. In 2006-07, the program opened up applications for schools to apply for funding toward a 1:1 computer initiative in the school, meaning each student would have their own computer/laptop. Muck said the state offered an incentive by providing $1 for every $2 that the local school district would provide. He said the Mitchell School District had already begun implementing a 1:1 program in the 2005-06 school year, and was a successful applicant for the program in 2006-07.

The program was exclusively for Gateway equipment, because it had won the state contract for the computers, Muck said. While the program started out successfully, Muck said it wasn't long before they started hearing "rumblings" about Gateway having financial difficulties.

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"We were seeing some of that reflected in the service that was provided to the district, in terms of warranty repairs and those type of things," Muck said.

In 2008, MPC Computers LLC and some of its affiliates-like Gateway-filed for bankruptcy.

Since Gateway offered a three-year warranty on its equipment, that put schools just starting out the pilot program in a tough spot, according to Muck. He said Mitchell fared better than most because it was two years into the three-year warranty. He said the school district survived the third year without a warranty on its machines by withdrawing some computers from classrooms and using them for parts before changing vendors.

Personnel

As part of a consent agenda that includes board minutes, claims and open enrollment, the board approved the following personnel items:

• New hire (certified): Cassondra Grogan, elementary art teacher at Longfellow and L.B. Williams elementaries/SPED academic tester at $36,350 plus pending increase, effective 2016-17 school year; McKinsey Tate, SH English language arts teacher at $40,000 plus pending increase, effective 2016-17 school year; Jennifer Randall, SH vocal music/K-12 vocal music teacher at $42,000 plus pending increase for teacher compensation, $7,250 for show choir director compensation and $2,490 for high school musical co-director, effective 2016-17 school year; Danieka Novak, elementary teacher at Longfellow at $36,000 plus pending increase, effective 2016-17 school year; Stetsen Eriksen, elementary teacher at Longfellow at $36,000 plus pending increase, effective 2016-17 school year; and Roxanne Ross, fourth-grade teacher at L.B. Williams at $36,000 plus pending increase and head eighth-grade volleyball coach at $1,692, effective 2016-17 school year.

• Early retirement/resignation: Nancy Leach, Mitchell High School Student Council, effective end of 2015-16 school year pending suitable replacement; Michelle Semmler, special education teacher at Longfellow, effective end of 2015-16 school year; Amanda Gilman, sideline winter cheer, effective end of 2015-16 school year, pending suitable replacement; and Whitney Millar, G.B. Rogers Elementary School teacher, effective end of 2015-16 school year.

• Transfer: Esther Witte, Longfellow third-grade teacher to Longfellow fifth-grade teacher, effective 2016-17 school year; and Skyler Heyden, Longfellow fourth-grade teacher to Longfellow second-grade teacher, effective 2016-17 school year.

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• Mitchell Technical Institute new hire: Connie Kerns-Gramm, adjunct at $595, effective spring 2016; and Eric Schramm, adjunct at $1,050, effective spring 2016.

• MTI retirements/resignations: Vicki Wiese, vice president of Academics, effective June 30; Ron Thury, instructor, effective May 11; and Lynne Triebwasser, custodian, effective May 13.

Other business

In other regular business Monday, the board:

• Recognized South Central South Dakota Science and Engineering Fair award recipients from Mitchell; Mitchell School District's Destination Imagination teams for recent state awards and qualifying for the Global Finals; and Sherri Becker, who was named Outstanding Curriculum Leader for the state of South Dakota. School board members also competed against the Destination Imagination teams in an "instant challenge," and came in third place behind the two student teams.

• Approved a bid for evaluation services for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants, Round No. 4. Two bids were received, one for $157,706 from Technology in Education and one for $170,000 from World Consulting LLC. The board approved the low bid of $157,706 from TIE.

• Declared MTI shop and site houses surplus and approved permitting their sale through sealed bids or the auction process, pending correction of the site house's legal description. Putnam said the site house's legal description was incorrect on the school board agenda. The shop house is located at 1800 E. Spruce St. and the site house is at 724 Doris Drive.

• Approved the purchase of a backhoe for MTI programming, for a used 2012 Case 580N for $56,000 from Titan Machinery. The equipment will be paid for through Future Fund grant allocations. The other bid received was for a used 2011 CAT 420E for $59,999 from Butler Machinery.

• Approved the low bid received to purchase a health care simulator for MTI. One bid was received for $123,175 from Gaumard Scientific Co. Inc. It will be funded by the Round No. 3 TAACCCT grant awarded by the state for MTI technology/equipment.

• Heard reports from board members and the superintendent and provided time for public commentary.

• Held an executive session to prepare for "contract negotiations or negotiating with employees or employee representatives." No action was taken upon exiting the session.

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