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October 13, 2017 01:08 PM

Melody Schopp To Retire As Education Secretary


South Dakota's education secretary will be retiring at the end of the year, Gov. Dennis Daugaard's office announced Friday.

Melody Schopp has served as secretary of education since 2011. She was first invited to the join the department by then-Gov. Bill Janklow in 2000.

Schopp worked for the education department while as much as $2 million in grant money was embezzled by the Westerhuis family.

In July, Schopp appeared before the Government Operations and Audit Committee to answer questions about Department of Education oversight of the GEAR UP Grant program.  Schopp insisted that despite the scandal involving Mid Central Educational Cooperative and the deaths of the Westerhuis family, that not a penny of GEAR UP money was ever stolen. 

"There wasn't 100 million dollars misappropriated," Schopp said. "There is $1.4 million they cannot account for.  But those were not funds that came from the GEAR UP Grant and that is the biggest takeaway; that there was no GEAR UP money stolen,” Schopp said on July 24th.

KELOLAND Investigates found that two former directors of Indian education in the department of education warned Schopp and others about problems with the management of GEAR UP and other grant programs.  Both of those directors left office shortly after issuing the warnings. 

Her last day will be December 15. The governor's office denies that Schopp’s retirement has anything to do with GEAR UP and that Schopp had been planning to retire at the end of the year for some time. 

The governor’s office says Schopp is retiring so that she can travel and spend more time with her family. 

A replacement has not been announced.

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