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Max brings experience to new position of MHS dean of students

Parkston native spent years working in court system

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Kim Max started in her new role as the Mitchell High School's Dean of Students on October 1. The Dean of Students position was a newly created role this year by Mitchell High School.
Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — High school is a place to learn, and Kimberly Max is doing just that.

Not as a student, but as a new employee of the district. After years of working in the judicial system, Max took over the new district position of dean of students for Mitchell High School on Oct. 1 of 2021, where she is embracing the chance to continue offering guidance to youth by helping them make their way through the final stage of their secondary education careers.

“I had the opportunity to retire, and this opportunity came up. To me, it was an exciting opportunity and a chance for an adventure to work with youth in the community and be involved in their work,” Max told the Mitchell Republic. “My first passion has always been working with youth.”

A new position

The Parkston native, 50, graduated from Parkston High School and attended Dakota Wesleyan University with majors in psychology and a minor in sociology. She stayed in Mitchell after college and did some grant work with high-risk kids in the community before going to work for the state judicial system. She recently retired after 26 years as a court services officer.

And while she did decide to retire from her previous career, she wasn’t quite ready to take a step back from working with kids in some form.

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“At 50, I couldn’t see myself not working anymore,” Max said.

The position of dean of students at Mitchell High School is new, and a role that Max is still shaping and molding. Her aim is to support students in their school work, scheduling, graduation requirements, and to help with conflict resolution and scholarship opportunities. She also serves as testing coordinator.

While her office is in the high school’s guidance office, she is technically not a counselor, and the job has a slightly different description and responsibility.

After only a handful of months on the job, the full nature of the position is still taking shape, but Max said she has had excellent support and guidance as she looks to establish a presence among the students and staff.

“There has been a learning curve to things, but the administration and staff have been very supportive in helping me make that transition,” Max said. “The students have been wonderful. With my own children having been involved in the system and being active in volunteering through the years, I know a lot of students and they’ve been really receptive.”

That engagement is what drew her to the position when it came open. She brings in experience in working with youth of a variety of ages from her years working in the courts, and the new position allows her to continue her pursuit of that passion.

The court system can be a stressful environment to work in, Max said, so bringing her experience to the public education realm has been a chance for her to step away from the pressures of working in the justice system while still allowing her to help shape young lives in a positive way.

The mix and unique student personalities keeps her interactions vital and engaging, she said.

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“I think probably the thing I’ve enjoyed the most is getting an opportunity to impact students on a small level. Like helping with communication. I stand in the hallway every morning and welcome them and tell them good morning. Just to let them know that I’m here if they have questions or concerns,” Max said. “I enjoy that. I enjoy the mix of different personalities.”

These students have their lives and careers ahead of them, Max said, and being able to provide a road map for them to perform at their best and to secure the best opportunities for them to succeed is rewarding.

“When I’m at the high school I get a chance to work with the whole population of youth. You get to work with the kids in post-secondary planning, workforce planning and giving them a chance to look at the future. I get a nice mixture of job responsibilities,” Max said.

Looking forward

Max said there have and will be challenges as her duties become more streamlined. She has also set a number of goals for herself, but said for the moment she is focusing more on prioritizing them and setting them up in a way that is self-sustaining rather than fast-forwarding them into practice.

Joe Graves, superintendent of the Mitchell School District, said although the position of dean of students is new, it is an important one to which Max is bringing both experience and a personal connection.

“The high school dean of students position has been a really nice addition to our programming and student services,” Graves said. “We were so fortunate to employ someone of the caliber and experience of Kim Max. She brings so much to the position and has been able to really meet the needs of so many of our students.”

There is always room to improve on performance, both for students and herself, she said. The world always throws challenges in the way of desired progress, the question is how to navigate those challenges while maintaining a steady course forward, she said.

“I expect challenges every day. I think (it’s important) how you mesh the challenges of a changing society and a societal environment. How do we mesh that with the students and what they’re looking for?” Max said.

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She’ll also draw on her experience of being a mother for her new role. She and her husband Chris have three sons - twins Carter and Carson, who attend Dakota Wesleyan University and South Dakota State University, respectively, and a third son, Camen, who is a junior at Mitchell High School.

Now back in the educational world, Max said she’s looking forward to making a difference for years to come.

“I see myself spending, hopefully, many years in this position,” Max said.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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