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Roger Dorson retiring from DESE after storied career in education

  

It’s a running joke among Roger Dorson’s family: Will he actually retire — and stay retired — this time? But after nearly 15 years with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), it appears retirement might stick. 

Dorson, the deputy commissioner for the Divison of Financial and Administrative Services at DESE, is set to retire at the end of June after a storied career in education across Missouri. He taught American history and government for a decade while coaching football and basketball in Macon; he was a principal and then a superintendent for 21 years. 

“I really truly enjoy what I’ve done. I’ve been able to experience about every aspect of education, from being in the classroom as a teacher and a coach to being an adjunct professor in college to here at the department,” Dorson told The Missouri Times in an interview. “I’ve gotten to know people from all over the state … and I’ve made friends from all over the state. It’s been a wonderful experience.” 

“I’d always thought about being an educator. As I think back, I don’t know that I ever thought of doing anything other than being a teacher or a coach,” Dorson said. “The best thing I can remember about teaching is the interaction with the kids. They’re fantastic, and they really give you a boost. It really is amazing that probably not a week goes by that I don’t come across or meet or hear about a former student.” 

Dorson initially retired after serving in public education for several years, but when a job at DESE became available in school finance, he jumped at it. Since then, he’s served in a variety of positions at the department, including as the interim commissioner. He technically retired from his current role last year but has stayed on to help with the transition as Dr. Kari Monsees assumes the job

“Roger is known for his calm, steadfast approach to challenges in the field of education and has long been one of our state’s experts on school finance,” Commissioner Margie Vandeven told The Missouri Times. “To have him serve at the department for 14 years has been a true gift, both for our team as well as the school leaders, educators, and students across our state. On a more personal note, I will be forever grateful to Roger for the integrity displayed and leadership provided during his time as Interim Commissioner two years ago.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit Missouri, Dorson had a first-hand look at how the state’s schools were impacted. 

“From our perspective here at Financial Services: How do we go on and operate schools and reopen? But also COVID-19 had an impact economically. There are some budgetary questions the districts have with the lessening of funds, and how we’re going to be able to go forward,” he said. “We always have a lot of questions regarding the financial end — this year more so than most.” 

As Dorson sets to retire officially — again — he’s moved to New Franklin with his wife, a town about 40 miles outside of Jefferson City. It’s where his three children and nine grandchildren live. 

And even though he will be retired, Dorson still plans to live vicariously through his son, Benjamin Dorson, the principal in New Franklin. So maybe Dorson’s work in education isn’t quite finished after all.