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12 People You Need to Know in 2018: Stephen Kleinsmith

Advocate for Education

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Stephen Kleinsmith is retiring after 18 years as superintendent of Nixa Public Schools, but his mission to impact education appears far from over.

Kleinsmith suspects he’ll do more good on the state level now that he’s not working full-time. After all, he was recently named 2017 Superintendent of the Year by the Missouri Association of School Administrators.

Ask how he became Nixa’s superintendent, and his answer quickly follows a laugh, “Probably baseball.”

The 1974 Woodbine High School, Iowa, graduate was passionate about education, with a goal to play baseball and coach. But his ultimate aim was to become a superintendent, and he began climbing the ranks – finally becoming executive director for administrative affairs at Millard Public Schools in Omaha, Nebraska.

That’s when he heard a small town in the heart of the Midwest needed a superintendent.

“As soon as I looked into it, I began to fall head, line and sinker into a real affection for the community because it seemed like a safe, progressive community,” he says. “Fortunately, for me and my family, I was hired and, as it turned out to be, 18 years – which feels like a quick walk across a short stage.”

During Kleinsmith’s tenure, the school’s student population has nearly doubled to 6,300. In 2016, he led Nixa toward becoming the first school district in Christian County to go 1:1 with technology for all grades through the ConnectEd program. Since his hire, eight bond issues totaling $70.95 million have passed.

“No one bond issue failed,” he says. “It’s impressive to just look at the access to all that money … but to earn and maintain the trust of the community means the most to me.”

Looking to retirement, Kleinsmith says he plans to advocate for public education on the state level, in addition to potentially working part-time at a university to do research and teach program development.

Gov. Eric Greitens has taken note. While presenting the 2017 budget at NPS’ Peggy L. Taylor Early Learning Center on Feb. 2, the governor requested Kleinsmith provide counsel for educational affairs.

“I want to sit at a table with other people of goodwill and address the issues of education reform with a focus on maintaining local control as well as embracing some, if not many, of the rich traditions of public education,” Kleinsmith says.

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