Brookings School District's reputation attracted incoming superintendent Summer Schultz

Dana Hess, The Brookings Register
Posted 5/19/23

The Brookings School District’s new superintendent faces some challenges.

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Brookings School District's reputation attracted incoming superintendent Summer Schultz


The Brookings School District’s new superintendent faces some challenges.

Her first job will be hiring a new high school principal and a new activities director.

She’ll need to get up to speed on two elementary school building projects.

She’ll need to allay the anxiety of a community that saw its district go on probation during the school accreditation process.

She’ll have to bolster community confidence in the district after the school board eased out her predecessor.

Even facing those challenges, Dell Rapids Superintendent Summer Schultz is eager to get to work in Brookings. So eager, that this week she was in town interviewing high school principal candidates.

It was the Brookings School District’s reputation that attracted Schultz to the position.

“Brookings has a history of having a great school system,” Schultz said. “It has a history of a community that supports their school system. The foundation of this district and this community is one that I 100% wanted to be part of.”

Following her father’s example

Schultz went to school in Colman where her father was the principal for more than 30 years.

“I came back and taught and coached there right out of college,” Schultz said. Her undergraduate degree and first master’s degree came from Dakota State University. She earned a master’s in administration at St. Mary’s University in Minnesota and earned her doctorate at the University of South Dakota.

Her father’s role as principal made her aware that there were opportunities in education beyond the classroom.

“You’re able to impact more than one classroom,” Schultz said of being an administrator. “I really like that.”

Tough to leave Dell Rapids

For the past 11 years, Schultz has been the superintendent at Dell Rapids. The pandemic was tough on educators and students, but that doesn’t stop Schultz from saying that all her years in Dell Rapids were good ones.

“I can honestly say to you, every year has been amazing,” Schultz said. “That school community will be very difficult to leave.”

The pandemic taught Schultz the importance of human connections in education.

“We really learned that those support systems that we have in place in a traditional school day are so important to students,” Schultz said. “We had to minimize those or do away with them when we went to full virtual instruction. We had to lose it for a few months to really learn that.”

Leading the state’s superintendents

Schultz is the president of the South Dakota School Superintendents Association. Superintendents need to communicate fully with their communities, Schultz said, keeping them aware of what’s going on in their schools.

“We need to be a little more intentional about that,” Schultz said, “because we can use our community resources better if we’re better about communicating the needs we have and what we’re trying to do for our students.”

Superintendents are keenly aware of workforce shortages, both in education and other professions and industry. The best way for superintendents to combat that, Schultz said, is to create the best school districts possible that will be attractive to employers and their employees.

The superintendents group she leads is also concerned about the mental health needs of students.

“We can’t be afraid to talk about it,” Schultz said. “We have to have the uncomfortable conversations. We have to get more and more support for those students.”

Working with a school board

Schultz said she and the school board will find their way toward a successful working relationship. If she and other administrators are doing their jobs, the board will have the information it needs before the meeting and won’t have to ask many questions of its superintendent.

“The board meeting isn’t a time for the superintendent to do a lot of talking when it’s not necessary,” Schultz said.

She has been lucky throughout her career to work with good school boards.

“This board looks like they are a very professional group,” Schultz said. “They’ll tell me what they need and we’ll figure out as we move forward how to make our partnership work, for everybody to be comfortable.”

First official day is July 1

While Schultz won’t officially start her new job until July 1, she was in town this week interviewing candidates for high school principal.

Her perfect high school principal candidate is “somebody who is able to get the most out of students and staff. Someone who can use the resources that we have and make the most of them.”

While her start date is a ways off, Schultz is also getting familiar with the school district’s two elementary school building projects. Those projects made the position attractive to Schultz because the school board has put an emphasis on early learning.

“If we don’t work to bring the kids to the starting line, somewhat close to the same place, we always play catch-up,” Schultz said.

On the surface, a building project can be stressful, Schultz admitted. “It’s a great opportunity to get the educational specifications that our teachers, our students need.”

Impressed with administrative team

Schultz knows it will take some time to ease the anxiety of patrons worried about the stability of the district after a accreditation probation scare and the firing of the superintendent.

Her new administrative team “will work tirelessly to make sure the comfort level is back to where we would all like it to be,” Schultz said.

All she asks, Schultz said, is patience “to allow me to determine those priority areas that affect the most students and staff. I’m just asking for that grace, that patience as we get started this summer.”