By Rod Hall

In 2004, after a school board meeting adjourned, Superintendent Joe Graves asked to speak to me privately. Graves stated he intended to run for the Legislature, and wanted to hear my comments. I told him I would make the following motion at the next school board meeting: “If any employee of the Mitchell School District was elected to the Legislature, they would be given leave of absence with full pay.”

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I indicated to Graves that our discussion should be in open session where all members could hear all comments. Graves chose not to run.

Forty years ago when I was an employee of the Salem School District, a similar policy was approved and the minutes published. That liberal policy was written for the benefit of the high school principal. The principal dropped his political plans. Seeing the provision made, if elected, I entered the contest for state senator. I never asked permission, nor did the board grant permission. I was elected; the board gave me leave with full pay.

In 2008, Graves indicated again that he planned to run. The Daily Republic editorial board opposed his running. Former state senator and Mitchell board member Rod Hall announced that if Graves ran, that he, Hall, would run against him. Graves’ request to run was an official agenda item that required board action. When the board got to that item, Graves stated, “I will not be a candidate.”

Now in 2013, Graves announced again he plans a run for the Legislature. The Daily Republic wrote Graves shouldn’t run. Now after an investigation of superintendents’ contracts in Huron and Sioux Falls, The Daily Republic has access to Graves’ contract. Graves’ contract should be published in its entirety. Readers could read that portion “ … that he will devote his entire time, attention, skill and learning to the faithful performance of his duties of superintendent of schools for the district … ”

The readers and the voters could then choose whether Graves should be elected to the Legislature. The Daily Republic would have a great deal of time to inform the public of “extra duties” superintendent Graves has assumed while in Mitchell. Graves is the district librarian, from time to time he has been Title I director, he has been a regular writer for The Daily Republic and in his private life, Graves currently serves as an ordained minister in his church. The public and The Daily Republic could carry on an intelligent conversation whether any person could do all that and still serve as a legislator for Davison, Aurora and Jerauld counties two months out of the school year while their school of some 2,694 students is in session.

Graves correctly states in his response to The Daily Republic, “District employees have a right to run.”

Should Graves decide to run he simply notifies the board. No board action is required or is appropriate. Asking the board for a stamp of approval to run is getting a non-political school board involved in a partisan political election by asking for that board’s endorsement.

Whether this third time will be the charm or if it will be three strikes and you are out will ultimately be determined by the voters of Jerauld, Aurora and Davison counties. The school board must remain non-political and non-partisan. The board members, as individuals, have every right to be as political as they choose. Now, once again in 2013, Hall’s 2008 pledge to run should Graves enter the race is like Graves’ April 2002 permanent school opt-out - without a termination date.

- Rod Hall, of Mitchell, is a former legislator and school board member.