St. Johns Superintendent Palmer retiring, school board to begin search for next leader
ST. JOHNS − St. Johns Public Schools Superintendent Mark Palmer is retiring after more than two decades of working at the school district.
Palmer announced his retirement effective July 1 in a letter to the St. Johns community on Jan. 25. It caps a 35-year career in education, including nearly 24 years at St. Johns Public Schools.
“I came from Lake Orion (High School) at the time and I’m from the mid-Michigan area. When I came back to the mid-Michigan area and came back to St. Johns, I knew this was where I wanted to finish my career,” Palmer said. “It’s a great community. I started at the high school as the principal, and I really enjoyed the way the staff embraced me over the years. They’re so supportive and caring. It’s really like that throughout the district.”
Palmer became St. Johns High School principal on Dec. 1, 1999, a position he held for the following 18 years. The St. Johns Public Schools Board of Education hired Palmer as the school district’s superintendent in March 2018, replacing Dedrick Martin, who served as St. Johns Public Schools superintendent from 2013 to 2017. He left to lead the state School Reform Office.
Timothy Jackson, the district's school board president, and Palmer agreed that perhaps Palmer’s biggest accomplishment was his work to help get a $64 million bond passed in 2010, while he was principal at St. Johns High School. It funded significant renovations across the district, including rebuilding and remodeling the entire high school campus, Palmer said.
“Mark is the consummate public servant − humble, absolutely focused on students, families and the needs of the community,” Jackson said. “He has really been a rock of stability for the district both as high school principal and as superintendent.”
Palmer also reflects on smaller accomplishments, like times when he’s helped a student, parent or staff member improve their lives for the better. He has kept letters going back to the 1990s from students or parents thanking him. They help him remember why he’s worked in education this long.
Finding a new superintendent who can continue the district’s stability will be crucial as the Board of Education looks for the next school district leader, Palmer said. They will seek candidates with superintendent experience, possibly at a smaller school district, Jackson said, and who will be comfortable engaging and immersing themselves in the community. That has been one of Palmer's biggest strengths, Jackson said.
The school board next will look to begin a search and will consider hiring search firms, like the Michigan Association of School Boards. A salary range for the next superintendent has not yet been determined, Jackson said. Palmer was expected to earn $145,000 for the 2022-23 school year.
His contract was not set to expire until 2024, but Palmer said he made the decision to retire after heavy consideration. It’s “a real grind” and it can be hard on his family, he said. Retirement was a “bittersweet” decision.
“The community is so supportive of their kids and the school system,” Palmer said. “It’s been such a wonderful place. I came here with no children and now I have two daughters in college and law school. I’ve worked in three other districts and they were good districts, but this was by far my favorite place to be.”
Contact Mark Johnson at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ByMarkJohnson.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: St. Johns superintendent retiring, school board to search for new leader