Last edited 1:43 p.m., March 26, 2018
Stephen Kleinsmith will have a month off after retiring July 1 as Nixa Public Schools’ 18-year superintendent.
He’ll transition on Aug. 1 to the role of director of school and community partnerships at Missouri State University. Kleinsmith announced the plans March 20 during Springfield Business Journal’s 12 People You Need to Know live interview series at Hilton Garden Inn.
“I made the decision last week when I passed the drug test,” Kleinsmith joked, drawing a laugh from the crowd of 85. “The cup came back and I was cleared to work for Missouri State University.”
His statement drew applause.
In the newly created position, Kleinsmith said he would promote MSU’s programs and services, particularly when it comes to the College of Education.
“Like Dr. David Hough, the dean of the College of Education said, ‘If you want to take this job, you’ve got to take it understanding that we’re going to build the plane in midflight,’” Kleinsmith said.
For example, Kleinsmith may visit schools to inform administrators about MSU’s student teacher internship program that allows for a yearlong co-teaching experience. He called the program unique since, typically, student teachers tend to be on their own.
According to MissouriState.edu, the College of Education’s Internship Academy also allows the school to study the results and determine the program’s effectiveness to improve it.
“There’s an old saying that goes something like this: ‘If you don’t have good communication, you don’t have any understanding, and when you don’t have any understanding, conflicts are highly probable,’” Kleinsmith said. “What you do is you reverse the curse and you get out there and you communicate and get them to understand. I hope to be able to bridge that a little bit.”
In Nixa, Kleinsmith said he made the decision to retire in 2016, after his Parkinson’s disease began to slow him down. He was diagnosed around 13 years ago.
Kleinsmith said the job at MSU would be more flexible and less demanding, which is key to addressing his health.
“Parkinson’s is not for wimps. It’s a challenging disease,” said Kleinsmith, a self-described optimist who spoke of blessings in his life as a result of Parkinson’s.
At Nixa Public Schools, Kleinsmith is being succeeded by Gearl Loden, the six-year superintendent of Tupelo Public School District in Mississippi.
Similar to Kleinsmith, Loden has a history with successful bond issuances and building expansions.
A few notable accomplishments under Loden in Tupelo:
• the passage of a $44 million bond issue with 86 percent voter approval for facility upgrades and additions;
• the increase of the district’s reserve fund to $33.4 million from $13.5 million without raising taxes during a time of state funding cuts;
• the expansion of the district’s early childhood program;
• the implementation of science, technology, engineering and math programming;
• the improvement of the district’s state achievement ranking from 46th to a high of 16th over a five-year period; and
• the addition of Federal Emergency Management Agency safe rooms, secured entries and expanded background checks.
In 2015, Loden was named the Mississippi State Superintendent of the Year. Kleinsmith last year received Superintendent of the Year honors from the Missouri Association of School Administrators.
Some highlights from Kleinsmith’s work in Nixa:
• eight bond issues were approved totaling nearly $71 million;
• constructed a new high school, two elementary schools and an intermediate school, as well as other expansions;
• creatively financed construction of the Nixa Early Childhood Center;
• managed a student population that nearly doubled to 6,300; and
• issued computers to all district students in 2016.
When meeting with Loden prior to his selection, Kleinsmith said he intended to find some fault with Loden but was unable to do so.
“I cannot find a darn thing. He is the real deal,” Kleinsmith said. “They’ve got a lightning in the bottle coming up.”
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