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Schopp Leaving Education Dept. December 15

Governor Dennis Daugaard announced yesterday that Education Secretary Melody Schopp will retire on December 15 after nearly 40 years in public education.

GEAR UP on Gold Watch
On Schopp’s watch.

Senator Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton) expresses surprise that Schopp isn’t staying on through the final year of the Daugaard Administration, but GOAC chair Senator Deb Peters (R-9/Hartford) says she’s (SDPB’s Lee Strubinger’s words) “been talking about retirement with Schopp for a couple of years.” Indeed, over the past couple of years, many of us have discussed the prospect and propriety of “retirement” or some less pleasant synonym for Schopp’s departure following her stunning lack of oversight over Mid-Central Educational Cooperative’s mismanagement of the GEAR UP grant, which became a decade-spanning criminal enterprise leading to millions of misdocumented if not misused dollars, a fire and six deaths, and a lack of solid evidence showing that the state managed to deliver the intended, lasting educational benefits to the American Indian students the GEAR UP grant was meant to serve.

But hey, after thirty years of seeing South Dakota at the rock-bottom of the national rankings for teacher pay, she did help lobby for a sales tax increase that may have boosted our teacher pay from 51st in the nation to 50th. Well done.


  1. mike from iowa 2017-10-14 11:29

    So Sergeant Schultz of Stalag Noversite, who sees nothinnnnng, is hanging them up. Didn’t see this coming, didya? :)

  2. Rorschach 2017-10-14 11:46

    She finally has as much time into the South Dakota retirement system as she wants, apparently. Now while collecting her retirement pay she will move on to the next phase of her career, which will be lucrative consultant contracts with the department she formerly ran and other entities feeding off of the government teet. The cycle continues.

    In the game of musical chairs, which Pierre bureaucrat/GOP Party functionary will get her chair next?

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-10-14 12:27

    Don’t pick me—I’d consider working in administration a demotion.

  4. David Newquist 2017-10-14 12:27

    The cronies who have turned education into an economic development scam to enrich themselves were given their license by Bill Janklow when the state’s teachers were betrayed by one of their leaders. At one time, the SDEA was a powerful voice for teachers. While it was the collective bargaining agent for teachers, it was also the guiding force for professional standards and development. Each year it held its state convention in the spring, which dealt with bargaining and governance issues, but also held seminars and workshops on pedagogical developments in the various disciplines. As a director of the Dakota Writing Project, I was involved along with SD Council of Teachers of English in organizing and presenting some of the programs. They were high-powered and usual sessions that kept teachers in touch with developments in meeting the issues that arise in education. South Dakota was admired and recognized for its teacher-driven professional organization.

    Then came SDEA president Dianna Miller []. Janklow, like all Republicans, hates unions and the idea of giving employees a voice in their chosen professions. The SDEA was particularly irksome because it had the force of professional authority behind it. Janklow and Miller made an agreement that stripped the SDEA of its professional standing and left it with only its role as a bargaining agent, which is largely reviled by good South Dakotans. The annual convention and professional meetings was moved from the spring to the week before classes started in August. This is a time when teachers are winding up their family vacations in preparation for the new school year and are making their classroom preparations for the year. The move succeeded. As a member and officer, including state president, of COHE, the higher education faculty bargaining unit affiliated with the SDEA, I saw the effects of stripping SDEA of its professional status both on the teachers and on the perception of the public.

    Janlow’s move in taking away the professional function from the teachers put the Department of Education in the role of the professional voice. And, of course, the heads of that department were political appointees who were devoted to serving the political interests of the governors, not the professional development of the teachers.

    The Gear Up scam was a complex matrix of organizations designed primarily to divvy up government funds among the cronies. As one of Bob Mercer’s leads pointed out, “For years, the state Department of Education didn’t require Mid-Central Education Cooperative to report how many high school students went on to college after participating in the multi-million GEAR UP program, even though that was its purpose.” In all the stuff reported, there is scant mention of students or any teachers who worked with them.

    Meanwhile, the Governor will appoint another obedient crony who is good at distributing the spoils of education, and the actual teachers and students will continue to be regarded and treated as necessary evils in the bureaucratic mind. The Regents had EB-5. The DOE had Mid-Cantral and Gear Up. What is next to plunder?

  5. Roger Cornelius 2017-10-14 19:46

    Was that watched purchased with GearUp funds?

  6. grudznick 2017-10-15 00:45

    I, for one, hope that is not a really fancy gold watch but a pretty cheap knock off that they gave Ms. Schopp. I don’t much care that they gave her an engraved watch but if they spent thousands on an overly fancy one then grudznick is going to probably have an issue.

    For the fearers of this young lady coming back as a gear upping contract person, I only ask you one question: what could bring more entertainment than that?

  7. mike from iowa 2017-10-15 08:18

    Wasn’t Bolin Daugaard’s pick to replace Lederman? Small world-South Dakota.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-10-15 08:33

    David, that’s a really useful bit of history. I entered the profession after Janklow and the state co-opted that role in driving standards and curriculum. I can see how stripping SDEA of that role would significantly weaken the union. Is there any way SDEA can recover that power?

  9. Persistingly annoyed 2017-10-15 21:41

    My best guess is that Ms Schoop is a “retire rehire.” That income along with a big ole farm/ranch south of Lemmon and pheasant hunting lodges will keep the cash flow coming. Of course,this begs the question, how on earth did she manage to keep the farm/ranch and the hunting enterprises going and still manage DOE? Oh wait, she didn’t.

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