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Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis retiring from KSDE after 53 years

Posted: Sep 8, 2020
Author: Ann Bush

Dr. Craig Neuenswander named new deputy commissioner of fiscal and administrative serviced

After 53 years of serving the state of Kansas and its students, Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis is retiring effective Sept. 30, 2020.

Dennis joined the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) as a state school finance administrator in 1967. He was named deputy commissioner in 1976 and has served as interim commissioner of education four times since July 1995.

In his role as deputy commissioner of fiscal and administrative services, Dennis supervises the administration of about $5 billion in state and federal funds that flow through KSDE to unified school districts and nonpublic schools. He also has for many years served as liaison for KSDE and the Kansas State Board of Education to the Kansas Legislature and the governor.

“Dale has been a relentless advocate for Kansas schools, teachers and students for more than five decades. Generations of Kansas children are better off – and will be better off – because of his work,” Gov. Laura Kelly said. “I’m inspired by his 53 years of distinguished service, and while he may be retiring, I know that his commitment to our public schools will continue. I offer Dale my sincerest congratulations and best wishes for a pleasant retirement.”

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson is the 11th commissioner Dennis has served under.

“It is rare that someone like Dale Dennis comes along,” Watson said. “He has dedicated 53 years of his life to helping others and giving back to the students, educators and citizens of Kansas – he has done so with honor and integrity. I’ve enjoyed working with Dale for the past five years, and his passion, dedication and love for serving others will truly be missed.”

Superintendents across the state will miss having Dennis as a resource, said Dr. Steve Karlin, superintendent of Garden City Unified School District 457.

“He’s an icon,” Karlin said. “He’s an invaluable resource and is so helpful to superintendents and districts. We are fortunate to have a state department and people like Dale here to help us. That makes my job as a superintendent so much easier. No matter what corner of the state you’re in or how big or small a district is, he’s an advocate for public education. Dale is the gold standard.”

Dennis learned the importance of hard work and dedication as a young boy growing up in Mapleton, where his father operated a gas station. His father instilled a strong work ethic in Dennis.

“I’ve tried to be as helpful as possible,” Dennis said of his career. “If you can make a difference and help a school district – which will help students – it’s all about that. It’s about making a difference.”

Dennis graduated from Blue Mound High School and received three degrees from Pittsburg State University – a bachelor’s degree in business education in 1959, a master’s in business education and school administration in 1966, and an education specialist degree in school administration in 1983.

Prior to joining KSDE, Dennis was a teacher at the same high school where he graduated, Blue Mound, from 1959-1960 and 1961-1965, taking a step out of the classroom for one year to serve in the Army National Guard. He worked as a principal at LaCygne High School from 1965-1967.

Dennis has won numerous awards during his lifetime, including the Kansas Association of School Business Officials’ Distinguished Service Award, which the agency later named the Dale Dennis Distinguished Service Award. He also was named a 2019 Kansans of the Year by the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas.

Dennis and his wife, Laurie, have two sons, Darren and Damon, and three grandsons.

Dr. Craig Neuenswander, who currently serves as the director of School Finance, will step into Dennis’ position.

Neuenswander joined KSDE in July 2011. He began his educational career in 1982 as a junior high school math teacher in Dewey, Oklahoma. He moved to serve as principal at Riley County High School in 1988, and served in that capacity until 1994, when he was named superintendent of Riley County USD 378. He also was superintendent at Iola Unified School District 257 and worked as an adjunct instructor at Pittsburg State University.

Neuenswander received his bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Kansas, his master’s in school administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and his doctorate in school administration from Kansas State University.

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