STURGIS | The Meade School District will be hiring a new superintendent after the Board of Education and Jeff Simmons agreed to a “mutual release” from his contract, it was announced Monday evening at the board’s meeting in Sturgis.
Simmons will finish his contract, which runs through the end of June. He has been superintendent there since July 1, 2018.
“The school board has tough decisions to make and its job is to make those decisions and do what they believe is in the best interests of the school district. We have to respect that and I do,” Simmons said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon.
“I was coming back with the intention of coming home. Obviously, things don’t always work out,” he said. “It the nature of the position that I have. I understand it and I accept it.”
Board President Dennis Chowen declined to comment on the agreement, which was added late to the meeting agenda after a series of executive sessions with board members and the school district’s attorney in December and earlier this month.
“It was an agreement of mutual release, and that’s all that’s going to be published,” Chowen said in a telephone interview Tuesday morning.
Simmons began his career with the Sturgis schools as a Black Hills State University student-teacher more than 30 years ago. It included teaching for nine years at a middle school in Harlingen, Texas, before returning to South Dakota in 1999 as a high school principal, first in Eureka and then as principal and activities director in Timber Lake.
He served as Sturgis Brown High School principal for nine years before leaving in 2015 to become president and superintendent of the Aberdeen Catholic School System.
Simmons returned to Sturgis in 2018, succeeding interim superintendent John Pederson, who was appointed in December of 2017 after Donald Kirkegaard was named South Dakota Secretary of Education by then-Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
Simmons’ two-year tenure as Meade 46-1 superintendent has seen the district complete construction of new school buildings in Union Center and Summerset, but also deal with a drop in enrollment and subsequent loss of state aid.
Last year, a group of rural Meade County residents successfully fielded three candidates for open school board seats and then proposed forming a separate district for a handful of rural K-8 schools in the eastern and northern parts of the county.
That proposal was later tabled to allow district officials to come up with a plan to staff more teachers and maintain programs throughout the district.
Simmons said he had learned much about school finances, people and school board relationships in his two years as Meade 46-1 superintendent.
“We need to as superintendents be aware of all constituents and all potential issues in our school district to make sure that we foster those relationships and build trust before decisions are made,” he said.
Chowen said the process to hire a new district superintendent would likely begin with another meeting of the board later this month to review rules and regulations of a search process.
“The process is cumbersome, very demanding and very involved,” Chowen said.