Dr. Ed Hillhouse will step down as interim superintendent of the Meramec Valley R-III School District at the end of December due to failing health.
Hillhouse, who has been diagnosed with liver failure and is on a transplant list, said he had hoped to stay on the job until the end of the school year to complete several administrative plans that are in progress.
He said his mission in accepting the position of interim superintendent at the untimely death of Superintendent Randy George was to help the district work through a series of plans that George put in place.
At the time, the district was deficit spending and facing student population trends that left some buildings overcrowded and others not efficiently filled.
George was working toward a plan to ask voters to pass a bond issue to restructure district finances, along with a study of school building and transportation route student counts.
Hillhouse said he saw his role as interim superintendent was to work with the school board and administration officials to complete George’s plans.
After voters passed the bond issue, the district tackled restructuring district finances using bond issue funds, crafted a budget for next year and began the study to assess student population at all the buildings.
“When he agreed to step in, he said he would only do it if he was the superintendent,” said Tim Richardson, school board president. “He never saw himself as interim superintendent, but as superintendent. He was the person in charge.”
Another goal for Hillhouse was to use plans started by George to create a seamless transition for new superintendent Dr. John Mulford, who will take the helm of the district in July 2018.
Hillhouse said he believes the three managers, Assistant Superintendents Dr. Terri Parks and Dr. Jeremey Way and business manager Dr. Jeff Haug, have all the plans in hand.
“They are each specialists in their own area and have worked together on the things we had in progress,” he said. “I think we have everything pretty much lined out for Dr. Mulford.”
Hillhouse said the determining factor in his leaving earlier than planned is his declining energy level, but he stressed that he is upbeat as he awaits a call from the organ transplant organization.
He said reports that he had a year to live are not accurate.
“Maybe I misspoke,” he said. “The year I referred to was the possible waiting time on the transplant list.”
Placement on the donor list is based on a series of factors and some people move up or down on the list based on their condition when an organ becomes available.
“For me, it could be as much as a year, but I’m ready for the call 24 hours a day,” Hillhouse said. “I’m certainly not going to give up. I’ve learned how the list works and I’m at peace with it.”
One thing to his advantage is that he has a universal blood type so he can accept an organ from any donor.
“Sometimes it’s hard to smile,” he said. “But life is a gamble and I am at peace with it.”