Joseph E. Mitchell, 61, of Fremont NE

Joseph E. Mitchell was born to Calvin and Mary Lou (Dinkins) Mitchell February 13, 1954, in Winnebago, Nebraska. He passed away with his loved ones surrounding him on January 11, 2016.

As a child, Joe attended 6R District School, District 19, Tobin Country School, then transferred to Tekamah-Herman School where he graduated in 1972. Joe enlisted into the U.S. Navy immediately after graduating where he served his country from 1973 to 1984. He was a member of the Craig American Legion.

In August 1979, he married Mila Morales and they had four daughters and one son.

Joe was a fun-loving free spirit, with a mischievous, teasing personality. He loved being surrounded by his children and grandchildren, and cooking for all of them. He looked forward to hunting morel mushrooms with his friends and family every year and was also a huge Husker fan.

On January 28, 2006, Joe remarried to Marcia Elske in Tekamah, Nebraska. They lived out the rest of their lives in Fremont, Nebraska.

He was preceded in death by his father, Calvin Mitchell in 1984; his brother, Jim Mitchell in 1989; and his wife, Marcia Mitchell in 2015.

Survivors include his mother, Mary Lou Johnson of Tekamah; his siblings, Art & Mary Mitchell of Tekamah, Kathy & Scott McGowen of Tuscan, Arizona, Linda & Ron Harold of Craig, NE, Carol Mitchell of Tekamah, and Don Mitchell of Craig; his children, Mandy & Tony Reynolds of Omaha, NE, Mike & Nicole Mitchell of Omaha, Ida Mitchell of Port St. Lucie, FL, Cherri & Brent Schmidt of Omaha, Brandy & Etienne Amion of Omaha, and Josh & Jennifer Johnson of Lincoln, NE; 6 nieces and nephews; 11 great nieces and nephews; 22 grandchildren; and 1 great grandchild.

Visitation will be Wed., Jan. 13th from 5:00-7:00 at Pelan Funeral Services in Tekamah.

The Funeral Service will be Thurs., Jan. 14th at 11:00 a.m. at Pelan Funeral Services in Tekamah.

Joe Mitchell

Joe Mitchell

Tekamah-Herman Participating in reVision Grant

By Brandon Lavaley, Tekamah-Herman Superintendent

Welcome back to the second semester! I hope everyone was able to have an enjoyable break and spend some important quality time with family. These next two months are two of the most important, yet most difficult months of the school year for teachers and students. Typically, the weather is not very accommodating, there tends to be a lot of sickness going around, and there aren’t any breaks built into the calendar. However, this is a final push toward our spring testing window for state assessments (NeSA) and local assessments (MAP). Please encourage your student to continue working as hard as they can to improve, make sure they are getting plenty of sleep and eating appropriately. Though these two months may seem long, they fly by and the fourth quarter will be upon us before we know it.

The other topic for this article is the reVISION grant in which Tekamah-Herman is participating. The reVISION process is an initiative in career and technical education to make sure students are graduating high school with the skills and characteristics necessary to be successful when they eventually are employed, whether right after high school or upon graduation from college. The grant is a cooperative effort among 10 schools in northeast Nebraska. The primary purpose is to have the businesses in each community become more engaged with the school district, providing opportunities to students and helping guide curriculum decisions.

The benefit of this process for the school district is preparing our students and giving them opportunities to be successful after high school. The benefit for businesses is working directly with students, potentially preparing them for careers that they can fill within that business. The benefit for the community is helping replace and potentially bring in new jobs, allowing the population to maintain or grow instead of the continual decline we see in rural Nebraska. Businesses in our area have received a mailed invitation to attend an informative, interactive meeting with Nebraska Department of Education. The planning this year will hopefully go toward implementation of programs next year. Your input is vital and I encourage you to RSVP and attend the meeting in Oakland on January 20th. If anyone has more questions about reVISION, please feel free to contact the school and speak with myself, Mr. Gross, or Ms. Nuss about reVISION and the benefits for our students.

Brandon Lavaley, Tekamah-Herman Superintendent

Brandon Lavaley, Tekamah-Herman Superintendent

AQuESTT Classification Released for Tekamah-Herman School

 By Brandon Lavaley, T-H Superintendent

On December 4th, the Nebraska Department of Education released their AQuESTT classifications for each public school and district in the state. While some of you may have heard or read about the classification, the looming question remains, what is AQuESTT?

Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow (AQuESTT) is the most recent installment of an accountability system for public schools in Nebraska. Previously, each school was ranked based on its respective NeSA (state assessment) scores and graduation rates. This didn’t give much information to districts or patrons because it only referred to a snapshot picture on a single day for assessment scores and graduation rate for one class. AQuESTT is intended to be a multi-faceted tool that represents a school/district in a broader scope, then assigning them a classification score (1-4) rather than ranking from 1 through somewhere in the 200s. In the assignment of classification, a score of 1 indicates a need for improvement, 2 is a rating of good, 3 is a great classification, and 4 is excellent.

AQuESTT has six pillars that are represented within the overall classification. Those pillars are: 1) positive partnerships, relationships, student success, 2) transitions, 3) educational opportunities and access, 4) college and career ready, 5) assessment, and 6) educator effectiveness. The information gathered is through NeSA assessments, school characteristics, and administrator surveys.

While as a school district, we held a public celebration for our achievements and improvements on the NeSA from last spring, we are equally excited about our classification as a school district. The Tekamah-Herman Schools was assigned a classification of 3 (great) when considering all tenets of the AQuESTT system. In addition to receiving a great classification as a district, the high school was assigned a rating of 4 (excellent), of which we are extremely proud.

The AQuESTT system does not replace the continuous improvement cycle that we have used in the past. The data gleaned from AQuESTT is intended to support that process and help districts focus on areas of need, which we will continue to do. The explanation of AQuESTT is brief and probably confusing, as it takes time to become familiar with the system. More information is available online at Thank you for your continued support of the students and staff at Tekamah-Herman Schools.

Brandon Lavaley, Tekamah-Herman Superintendent

Brandon Lavaley, Tekamah-Herman Superintendent

Kats’ Korner: Is Consolidation What’s Best for the Students?

There are certain aspects of a small town a person can identify with, whether it is the culture, a historical location, certain events held throughout the year or simply how well the community is maintained.

Most small towns, such as Oakland, Lyons and Tekamah, share a common structure that educates our children, a school.

For quite some time now, local school boards have been faced with the daunting task of whether to consolidate or build a new school.

Personally, I don’t envy those trying to do what is in the best interests of the districts they serve. I do, however, admire them for the many extra hours they have devoted to this issue.

State aid seems to be at the root of the problem, or lack thereof. There has been a significant decrease for all three school districts in Burt County since 2014/15. Tekamah-Herman received $13,219.79 less than last year, Oakland-Craig took a large loss of $67,721.01 and Lyons-Decatur Northeast also took a huge loss of $53,106.59.

The decrease in state aid undoubtedly hurts a school, which has a trickle down effect, hurting teachers and students.

In my opinion, every child deserves the best education possible. If this means consolidating with another school so this can be accomplished, so be it.

I will go on record and say that I don’t want this to happen. I don’t want any community to lose their high school. If this happens, I hope each community can keep their elementary schools. At this point, only consolidating high schools is being considered.

There will be many more discussions on this matter in the future. The outcome may be decided by voting yes or no on next November’s ballot.

Please stay informed on the issue. School board meetings are always open to the public.

Remember, a child’s future is at stake.


Consolidation Options Being Discussed

By Brandon Lavaley, Tekamah-Herman Superintendent

In March, the Board of Education hired Jerry McCall, with Education Consulting Services, and his decades of experience to assist board members in narrowing a focus to improve our facilities for our students. Through the work with Jerry, the recommendation was made to pursue a consolidated effort first and gauge the interest of other school districts, specifically Oakland-Craig and Lyons-Decatur Northeast. Since reaching out to those districts, it has been relatively quiet over the past several months. Lyons-Decatur Northeast indicated that they were not interested in further conversations at this time, stating that they had a relationship with Bancroft-Rosalie for activities with which they were pleased. Oakland-Craig expressed some interest, but felt they needed to evaluate all of their options.

Last week, committee representatives from Tekamah-Herman, Oakland-Craig, and Jerry McCall met to further discuss the potential of a consolidated effort between the two districts. The specific items discussed, in general terms, were the internal organization of grade levels in a proposed district, the potential site of a new high school, and the size of the building being to be built. These conversations are preliminary, with both Boards seeking additional definitive data from Education Consulting Services before making a commitment.

The committees asked for further clarification from Mr. McCall on potential educational programming for the proposed district and ideas of participation from Northeast Community College with career education and certification opportunities in a district of the proposed size. The committees are supportive of doing what is in the best interest of students. If education can be enhanced and facilities improved through consolidation, Tekamah-Herman representatives would certainly be interested in such an effort. The facility issues in our district are not improving and must be addressed in the near future. The Board members are attempting to make the best decision possible to address as many needs as possible.

The Board of Education at Tekamah-Herman wishes to be as transparent as possible with any potential election for the use of tax dollars. The members have spent countless hours interviewing, researching, and evaluating options. While this isn’t the only option available for the district, this is clearly the best option that must be investigated to its fullest, in the minds of the Board and representatives hired to guide the Board. Please feel free to communicate with your representatives about this and future issues.

Brandon Lavaley, Tekamah-Herman Superintendent

Brandon Lavaley, Tekamah-Herman Superintendent

Tekamah-Herman School Considering Future of School

By Brandon Lavaley, T-H Superintendent

As I discussed in a previous article, the Tekamah-Herman Schools Board of Education contracted Jerry McCall with Educational Consulting Services to evaluate the options for the district. Through his work, he considered many factors including current facilities, school population trends, regional population trends, financial ramifications, and many others that the district could not have interpreted on its own. Through his work, he came to a recommendation to the Board as to a direction to pursue concerning the facilities and future of the district. His recommendation was to pursue a consolidated effort with Oakland-Craig and Lyons-Decatur Northeast. The initial presentation would suggest PK-8 attendance centers in Tekamah, Oakland, and Lyons, with a high school for grades 9-12 constructed between the communities at an undetermined location.

With that recommendation, a letter has been sent to the two districts to gauge their Board’s respective interests in pursuing a joint venture. The Tekamah-Herman Board has asked for a response in short time regarding any interest, or lack thereof. As this process moves along, as it is envisioned from our Board’s perspective, the three districts would establish committees composed of Board members and community members to work with Mr. McCall through the process. Eventually, a proposal would be brought to the voters of participating districts for backing of construction needs. At this time, the Tekamah-Herman Board is reaching out to determine the interest levels of the two other districts. If there is no interest on their parts, the Board will continue to work with Jerry to find a second solution that may work.

This time of year also means the end of the school year for most teachers and students, and the end of careers at Tekamah-Herman for graduates and retirees. While graduation is focused on those seniors moving on, I would like to recognize those behind the ceremony that make it possible. The custodial staff responsible for setting up the gym, Mr. Gross for organizing the ceremony, Mr. Steinke and Mrs. Niewohner for their preparation of music performed at the ceremony, Board President Gordy Bryant for the presentation of diplomas, and Sarah Chatt with the Tekamah-Herman Schools Foundation for her representation and the Foundation’s continued support of graduates through scholarships. Lastly, I would like to commend Ms. Nuss for her tireless work tracking student progress, encouraging students with scholarship applications and meeting graduation requirements, her work with the Foundation to get the students applications out and back to the Foundation, and preparing for the graduation ceremony. She does an excellent job for our district and our students. Finally, congratulations and good luck to our retirees: Jaccie Mencke, Kathy Mussack, Jim Steinke, Priscilla Warren, and Marsha Weise.

As is always the case, all articles, past and current, can be found at Please communicate with a Board member or myself about any questions, comments, or concerns with Tekamah-Herman Schools. Have a great summer!!

Brandon Lavaley, Tekamah-Herman Superintendent

Brandon Lavaley, Tekamah-Herman Superintendent

Tekamah-Herman Superintendent on Future of School

Since the Board of Education approved hiring Educational Consulting Services and Jerry McCall to help guide them toward a decision concerning the future facilities of our district, there has not been a lot of information to report. What I can definitively share is that he is extremely thorough in his craft and will certainly have a multitude of information he is able to share with the Board.

Mr. McCall has the ability and resources at his disposal to gather far more information and predictive data, and in turn interpret those facts, more adeptly than any single body or organization (superintendent, Board of Education, community committee) could possibly imagine. He has been in contact with the leadership in both Tekamah and Herman, Burt County officials, economic development, community colleges, regional planners, staff members at within the district, and others to accrue as much information as possible before developing some of his own thoughts. He will be sharing with a Board committee as he works through the process, with goal to being for the Board to come to a consensus, based on facts and professional input, as to the best solution for Tekamah-Herman Schools. Mr. McCall is expected to be done with his work no later than September 1st, though may be completed sooner.

While I understand the public interest, and encourage that to be sustained, this is a process that must be completed. Following the failed bond election in November, the Board has continued to work toward a solution to our facility concerns. The issues are significant and have not been “placed aside”, but there may not be something to report on progress every week or even two. The Board is excited to have Jerry contributing his expertise and continues to focus on moving forward with addressing the facility needs as appropriately as possible.

I am available to provide tours of our facilities at any time for those that are interested. As is always recommended, please communicate with Board members about any questions, concerns, or conversations you may have regarding the district. The most effective school districts are those that have great teachers, wonderful students, good facilities, and positive public support from the patrons within the communities. We certainly have the ability to be a great district and hope each of you strives for the same.

Brandon Lavaley

Brandon Lavaley

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