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HHS' Hester takes job in Topeka





When Hays High School Principal Mike Hester announced in March of 2012 he would retire at the end of this school year, he had hoped to continue a career in education in another state.

He found a job he liked well enough in Kansas to change his mind about retiring.

Hester, after 13 years at HHS, has accepted a job as general director of secondary education for Topeka USD 501, the equivalent to assistant superintendent in the Hays school district. His hiring was to be announced at Thursday’s Board of Education meeting in Topeka.

“I had some business options if I didn’t find what I wanted in education,” Hester said. “But I was pursuing education. That’s my first love, where my heart is.”

Hester was eligible to retire under the KPERS “85 plan,” which is years of service plus age equal to 85. So he thought about retiring and continuing in an education career in Missouri. Hester, 56, has spent the past 30 years in education.

He and his wife, Peggy, had made the decision to live within an hour of Kansas City, either in Missouri or Kansas. They were moving from Hays to be nearer Peggy’s mom.

“We were trying to get back east, 30 minutes from my mother-in-law, and we have 30, 40 family members in the Kansas City area,” he said.

Marty Straub, longtime assistant principal at Hays High, was named as Hester’s replacement last spring, but Hester, who has a doctorate, was unsure of his future.

Then he learned of the Topeka vacancy.

“It was one of my goals to move into a superintendent’s seat, and this made more sense financially,” he said. “This is a wonderful use of my experience and knowledge of secondary schools. I am thrilled to be able to serve in this capacity.”

Hester, who will be in charge of five public high schools and six middle schools in USD 501, is planning to attend district graduation ceremonies Saturday in Topeka.

While he is looking forward to new challenges, Hester — who has three grown children — said he and his wife will miss Hays.

“We’ve spent here longer than anywhere,” he said. “For us, that says everything about the the quality of the community. It was the best job and the best community.”