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December 15, 2017 11:21 AM

State-Tribal Relations Committee Opposes Kirkegaard's Nomination For Education Secretary

Rapid City

The State-Tribal Relations Committee is sending a message to the South Dakota Senate: Don't confirm Meade County Superintendent Don Kirkegaard as the next state secretary of education.  

With Democratic State Sen.Troy Heinert being the lone dissenter, the motion to oppose Kirkegaard's nomination passed the committee at its meeting this week. 

Committee members tell KELOLAND News they are concerned about Kirkegaard's conflicts of interest working as superintendents at several schools, heading the South Dakota Board of Education and his work as a consultant with Dakota Education Consulting and former Secretaries of Education Rick Melmer and Tom Oster. 

Kirkegaard said in an interview last month that he didn't play a big role with Dakota Education Consulting. 

"I never was a partner with them. I did help on 3 to 4 different job searches when it was western South Dakota. They did some things and asked if I would help facilitate through them and did, but haven't done that for 3 to 4 years and only did it a couple of times," Kirkegaard said in the November 14 interview.  

Outgoing Education Secretary Melody Schopp is retiring Friday. She has been embattled over the GEAR UP scandal and how much oversight the Department of Education had on the federal grant program. 

A motion proposed to summon various people involved in the GEAR UP grant to testify before the State-Tribal Relations Committee failed to get a majority vote.
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