Time for play after a life full of work

After 33 years in the Columbia School District, an assistant superintendent is ready to retire.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:58 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Skip Deming is ready to trade in his seat behind a desk for a seat behind the wheel.

Deming, who has worked in the Columbia School District for 33 years, and his wife, Jerri, have big plans after Deming’s last day as assistant superintendent of instruction on June 25. They own a motor home in which they will travel across the continental United States.

“We’re going to take a trip to the Pacific Northwest,” Deming said. “We won’t even be back to Columbia until September.”

After an 18-month stint in the Vietnam War, Deming began his studies at the University of Missouri in 1967. He chose engineering as his major, but he didn’t stick with it for long.

“There was a graduate assistant in an algebra class that told me ‘As much as you talk about kids, you shouldn’t be in engineering,’ ” Deming said. “She was right.”

Deming began teaching sixth grade at Shepard Boulevard Elementary School when there was only one other male elementary teacher in the district, he said. After two years of teaching, Deming became a principal at Benton Elementary School. He served for 17 years as a principal at three elementary schools before moving on to assistant superintendent of elementary education.

In 1998, Deming left the school district to work for MU as the director of the Center for Educational Improvement, part of the Regional Professional Development Center.

In 2001, Deming returned to the school district as assistant superintendent of instruction.

He decided to retire for many reasons, but mainly because his wife of 23 years is also retiring. She is the coordinator for the Parents as Teachers program.

“Any way I looked at it, it was time to retire,” Deming said.

Deming says he’s had great opportunities during his time with the district.

“I don’t think much about what I’ve contributed; it’s more about what I’ve received,” Deming said. “I’ve learned a tremendous amount and done things I’ve never thought about doing ... I feel blessed by the people I’ve met.”

Deming has served as assistant superintendent of instruction for three years, where his main duties have been creating a “good, solid curriculum.” He said he is proud of changing the format for summer school, which used to be by invitation only, he said.

“Now anyone can enjoy enrichment opportunities,” Deming said.

He has been a major proponent for including writing skills in the elementary curriculum, and he was the first administrator to participate in the Missouri Writing Project in 1980. Deming said writing is part of a thinking process that is important in an elementary curriculum so young people can write to their full potential.

Maggie Drennan, a first-grade teacher at Russell Boulevard Elementary School, said that Deming encouraged her early in her teaching career to participate in a writing project.

“When you see yourself as a writer, and when you enjoy it, it helps you be more effective at teaching it,” Drennan said.

Drennan said Deming was a mentor, nominating her for Beginning Teacher of the Year, which she received in 1982. This year, Drennan won Teacher of the Year for Elementary Education. Deming came with a picture of Drennan on her first day of teaching, Drennan said.

“He’s always very positive, a good role model,” Drennan said. “I think the district will miss his leadership, his knowledge of the history of the district.”

Michael Schooley, principal at Derby Ridge Elementary School, has known Deming for 18 years, first as a fellow principal and then as a supervisor. Schooley said he considers Deming to be someone who provides a steady hand and level-headed ideas.

Deming said that in his retirement, he looks forward the most to not having a schedule so that he can read the pile of books he’s been saving and bike and hike with his wife.

Deming will miss his vocation, though, because of the relationships he has been able to cultivate, something that has been “half of my wife’s and my life,” he said.

Of course, the thrill of traveling and the excitement of seeing new things are calling to Deming and his wife.

“We’ve been reading up and looking at pictures,” Deming said. “Now we hope we’re going to be in some of those pictures.”

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