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District 153 delivers special send-off for retiring superintendent

District 153 Superintendent Dale Mitchell got a heartfelt send-off from staff and friends at a reception in his honor on May 10. Mitchell is retiring in June after 27 years with the district, 18 of those as superintendent. Among the gifts he received was the school board’s dedication of the administrative offices in his name, and the Homewood Education Association planting a tree on campus in his honor.

 

There was no confetti, so District 153 Superintendent Dale Mitchell was showered with silly string at his farewell party Monday. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

District 153 Superintendent Dale Mitchell got a heartfelt send-off from staff and friends at a reception in his honor on May 10.

Mitchell is retiring in June after 27 years with the district, 18 of those as superintendent. Among the gifts he received was the school board’s dedication of the administrative offices in his name, and the Homewood Education Association planting a tree on campus in his honor.

School board president Shelly Marks told Mitchell: “Our respect for you, there’s just no words for what you’ve done here. Our schools are better because you’re here.” 

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Board member Jim Schmidt said Mitchell was a “servant leader” showing listening skills, empathy, healing, self-awareness, conceptualization, foresight and building community. He called Mitchell a “one-of-a-kind educator.”

Board member Deb Havighorst said Mitchell always aimed higher. She has accepted that as her own motto incorporating it into her own life’s work. 

The party at James Hart School included some tears but lots of laughs. The pandemic meant no food or drink was served, but there were balloons and a fun video and at the end of the event guests found cans of silly string under their seats. On the count of three, they showered Mitchell.

One memory, repeated by several teachers was Mitchell’s unannounced visits to James Hart, Churchill and Willow Schools. He’d step into a classroom and become part of the students’ daily activities, whether that was gym class, helping with a vocabulary lesson or checking out the latest project in the Hart STEM lab. 

They joked about his Prince Charming costume for the Halloween parade at Willow School and how he posed for pictures with every little princess. 

They appreciated the support he gave to the PTA and Foundation 153 events. Ashanti Bethea, a former PTA president who now serves on the board, said Mitchell was always the first one to apply for PTA membership. And he was known for the costumes he wore at Fund Run events sponsored by the foundation.

Teachers spoke about his concern for them and their families, and how much they appreciated the teacher resources and training sessions he helped secure for them.

Scott McAlister, who will take over the superintendent’s position, thanked Mitchell for “taking a chance on me” by offering him his first job in the district as principal of Hart School. The transitional year Mitchell had planned for McAlister was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but McAlister said he learned much from Mitchell, despite the situation.

“He went into overdrive every day to get us through,” McAlister said.

What most of all stood out to those gathered was Mitchell’s steady leadership and the work he did to create a culture of respect, caring and compassion. 

“The culture you created for adults and children and the family you’ve created here in Homewood is something we’re all so grateful for,” Marks told him.

Mitchell thanked the District 153 family for all the love and support they’ve shown him.  

“This is a beautiful place,” he said. The goal he set was “to treat and teach our kids compassion” and he hoped that will remain a foundation of the district.

“I think we’re better than the day I started, and you’ll be better tomorrow,” Mitchell said. “You’re Homewood. You’re 153.”

The District 153 school board unveiled a rendering of how Dr. Dale Mitchell’s name will now be synonymous  with the district. The dedication was a parting gift from the board. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

 

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