When Gilbert Hoffman first was elected to the St. Clair R-XIII School District Board of Education, only one current employee of the district was on the payroll. In addition, the present elementary school was not there, the current junior high building served as the high school and Edgar Murray was about half the size as it is today.
In other words, Hoffman has served the R-XIII district for a long time.
In April when his latest term expires, the man known as “Gib” will step down after 39 years as a school board member. A reception was conducted in his honor on Monday night prior to the R-XIII board of education’s March meeting at the central office.
“I just wanted to be involved with the schools,” Hoffman, 79, told The Missourian while reflecting back on his nearly four-decade tenure. “I have no regrets. If I had to do it all over again, I’d do the same thing.”
Hoffman was 40 years old when he first was elected to the school board in 1973. At that time, he lived in the apartments that now are located along High School Drive.
“I was acquainted with the superintendents, principals and some of the teachers,” he said. “I was asked if I wanted to run for the school board. I said I was interested, but I didn’t know if I had the time.
“Well, I decided to run and was elected. It’s mushroomed from there.”
In all, he has served 13 consecutive three-year terms.
“It’s tough to remember all we’ve done over the years,” he said of his school board service. “You just don’t think about things like that while they’re happening. You don’t spotlight it.
“But, it’s a good school district. We’ve had our ups and downs and challenges over the years, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job.
“This is a district that puts kids first, both on the educational side and by offering other things to help keep them in school. This district bends over backwards to help the students and get them educated. I think we’ve always tried to keep the kids happy, but under our rules.”
Hoffman does remember the building projects the district went through to improve and expand its facilities. The new St. Clair High School was built in the 1990s, and the junior high moved into its current location at that time. In 2003, the new wing of Edgar Murray opened that included the current gymnasium and library. In 2004, the current St. Clair Elementary School opened its doors.
“All of those building projects were needed,” he said. “And, they all went pretty well. There were a few obstacles, but everything went pretty smoothly.”
The R-XIII school district currently has about 2,300 students in the four buildings plus the Franklin County Cooperative.
In addition, Janice Girardier, who currently is employed parttime at the co-op, was on the district’s payroll. She is the only individual who has longer tenure in R-XIII than Hoffman.
During his 39 years on the school board, Hoffman served as president from 1995-2007 and has been vice president since 2007. He has served on numerous school committees and participated in many events. He is a lifelong St. Clair area resident.
“Gib has been a positive influence to the children of our schools for several generations,” Superintendent Mike Murphy said. “His commitment to the St. Clair R-XIII School District to serve 39 consecutive years is unheard of in public education.
“It has been my pleasure to work with Mr. Hoffman as superintendent of schools, and I thank him for his willingness to serve others.”
Hoffman was a postman in the community from 1960-1992 and was the past owner of Hoffman’s Service Center from 1954-2008. Among his accomplishments are having earned the St. Clair Area Chamber of Commerce’s Distinguished Service Award in 2000, its Citizen of the Year honor in 2004, and a Paul Morris Award recipient in 2008.
The Paul Morris Award recognizes individuals who provide leadership to their communities through school board service and other community service activities. It is sponsored by the Missouri School Boards Association.
Hoffman also was a cofounder of the St. Clair Regional Airport in 1963 and is a licensed pilot.
“Gib will be sorely missed on the board as he has always been the elder statesman who has seen just about every possible situation and dealt with it,” current R-XIII board President Dave Berkel said. “Gib always brings an interesting insight to board discussions, and he isn’t afraid of telling us exactly how he feels. He has always tried to stay informed on school issues.”
Hoffman said he is most proud of the building upgrades and improved facilities for both educational and extra-curricular activities as well as being able to do a decent job on keeping up with things like technology and curriculum changes.
“We’ve come a long ways,” he said. “Kids have so much more, so many options today. I’m proud of the things we do for our kids. I feel we’re on top of things to benefit our students.”
R-XIII Schools Today
Today, Hoffman believes the greatest challenge facing the St. Clair as well as other school districts is money.
“We’ve always had to keep an eye on finances,” he said. “But in the last couple of years, funding really has gotten tighter. That’s one of the major changes I’ve seen over the years. It’s just tougher to get districts the money they need today.
“But, I feel we’re in better shape than a lot of districts. We have good, cautious leadership that looks ahead when planning and doesn’t go overboard in the process. We’re going through tough times, but I don’t feel we’re struggling. We’re prevailing because we’ve been pretty conservative.
“I’m very proud to have served this long and be a part of the community.”