School District 27 superintendent Chris van der Mark travelled far to take in this month’s board meeting ahead of his actual start date of April 1. Board trustee Willow MacDonald (pictured with van der Mark at the meeting) said she is very happy with the appointment. Angie Mindus photo

School board trustees put out the welcome mat for new superintendent

Ministry’s special advisor Mike McKay exits district as Chris van der Mark takes over

Chris van der Mark made his first public appearance as School District 27’s new superintendent Thursday.

van der Mark travelled the long distance from his home in the Bulkley Valley to Williams Lake Thursday to attend the board’s regularly held monthly meeting.

“This is a beautiful area, a beautiful part of the province. I have been very fortunate to work in a number of really interesting parts of the province,” said van der Mark, whose previous experience includes working as a teacher, principal and, most recently, a superintendent for the Smithers area where he also found time to coach a basketball team.

“I’m really looking forward to exploring the Cariboo area and, of course, I’m really looking forward to getting down to work and getting things focused on learning in this area and looking forward to being part of a great team.”

Read More: School District 27 announces new hire for superintendent position

The district has seen its share of struggles in recent years, including a vote of non-confidence against the previous board and management levied twice by the Cariboo Chilcotin Teachers Association.

Over the last year, special advisor Mike McKay has assisted the board in implementing recommendations developed by education specialist Dianne Turner in a report to the minister last year.

Since that time, however, the district has seen almost an entirely new board of trustees elected, a new board chair in Trustee Willow MacDonald, and a new superintendent in van der Mark, who was urged by McKay, an old colleague, to apply.

“Our ship is going in the right direction,” McKay told the board Thursday evening, who will complete his contract with the district March 31. “Public education should always be a good news story.”

McKay said he has confidence the board is in good hands with van der Mark and the rest of the staff within the district who, he said, all work hard for the betterment of students.

MacDonald said she was looking forward to the “next phase of moving forward with School District 27.”

“I’m so happy with the work that we’ve done since the election and I’m so happy that Chris is here and I just want to get down to doing good work.”

Trustee Mary Forbes said there has been a lot of interest about van der Mark from teachers as a person not just as a leader since the anouncement of his appointment, noting her appreciation for his committtment to his basketball team, and his interest to work with others.

“We’re really excited to have him,” Forbes said.

In the past, Turner’s report noted a ‘power triangle’ which she said created problems in the district.

MacDonald made it clear who the district boss will be now.

“[Chris van derMark] is the leader and he is the boss. This is not a nine bosses office. He is the superintendent. We hired him to be the leader of this district and I expect him to do it.”

van der Mark officially starts his new role April 1.

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SD 27 superintendent Chris van der Mark and ministry-appointed special advisor Mike McKay had kind words for one another at Thursday’s meeting. Angie Mindus photo

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