Meade superintendent submits resignation

Pictured is Don Kirkegaard, Superintendent. Courtesy photo

STURGIS — Meade School District Superintendent Don Kirkegaard has submitted his resignation.

The Meade School Board accepted his resignation at its Monday meeting which will be effective June 30, 2022. They also voted to interview executive search firms and choose one to help them find Kirkegaard’s successor.

The Meade School Board had initially said Kirkegaard would be brought on strictly on an interim basis for one year beginning in July of 2020.

The board offered and Kirkegaard accepted a second one-year appointment last February. Board President Joe Urbaniak said at the time that the board did not want to change leaders in the middle of a pandemic.

“Dealing with COVID and everything we have had to deal with this past year, it’s not been easy. It has not been fun. At this point to switch horses in the middle of it would be a detriment to our school district,” Urbaniak said.

Kirkegaard returned to the Meade School District in July of 2020 after two years as superintendent at the West Bend (Wis.) School District.

He had served as superintendent in the Meade School District for nearly seven years before stepping down in December of 2017 to become South Dakota’s Secretary of Education. He served in that capacity for about six months.

Kirkegaard said most school districts use a search firm to help fill superintendent vacancies. The service can cost more than $10,000, he said.

If they district did not hire a search firm, then the superintendent candidates would apply directly to the district’s human resources department and the board would need to do the review of each candidate.

Urbaniak said he would like to see the board use a search firm.

School board member JT Vig said that because the district is starting the search early, he wondered if it would be worth advertising locally for the position.

“There’s a whole lot of people who have moved into this area in the last 12 months. Let’s open it up for a month and see what hits… Is that worth the trouble for a month or so?” he asked his fellow board members.

Urbaniak said he appreciates that the search firm does the legwork for the district.

The board voted 7-2 to hire a search firm. Urbaniak, JT Vig, Lee Spring, Holly Good, Terry Koontz, John Nachtigall and Aaron Odegaard voted in favor. Darrell Vig and Charlie Wheeler voted against it.

Kirkegaard explained that there are four search firms that do the brunt of superintendent searches in South Dakota, and the Meade School District has used some in the past. The board chose to interview three including Dakota Educational Consulting (who work in conjunction with the South Dakota Associated School Boards), McPherson & Jacobsen, and Ray and Associates.

Wheeler said he was concerned that the last search firm the district hired did not follow the direction of the board.

“I found out later (in the process) that our staff was doing most of the work that they should have been doing,” he said. “I told them exactly what I thought and there was never any ‘I’m sorry,’ ‘What could we have done better.’ There was nothing.”

The board set a special meeting for Wednesday, Oct. 6, to interview search firms before choosing one to do the district’s superintendent search. The board will then vote to hire one of the firms at their Oct. 12 meeting.

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