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South Dakota Education Chief Retires

Melody Schopp, South Dakota's education secretary, announced her retirement Friday afternoon. 

She will retire in December, but the announcement came while her department deals with allegations that it ignored warnings about potential misuse of federal funds in one of its programs.

Her resignation is the second state chief resignation this week and comes as states turn in and prepare to execute their accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The average state chief tenure is just over two years.  

Schopp was hired in 2011 and is one of the nation's longest-serving state superintendents. 

But her office in recent years has been embroiled in accusations that it allowed for the misuse of funds from the Gear Up Federal Program.  Earlier this year, a state watchdog committee found that Schopp's staff in 2011 ignored e-mails from a dismissed employee that warned that the federal funds meant to improve Native Americans' college readiness were being funneled to outside businesses and used inappropriately.  

Schopp successfully lobbied for the state's teachers to get a pay raise using a statewide sales tax increase. The state turned its ESSA plan in last month. 

"Secretary Schopp spent decades working on behalf of students and educators in South Dakota and nationally," said Chris Minnich, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. "In recent years she increased teacher pay in her state, and committed to elevating the teaching profession across the country as President of CCSSO's Board of Directors. Her bold vision and leadership will be missed."  


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