Q&A: Shaker Superintendent Mark Freeman
The longtime superintendent spoke with Shaker Heights Patch about his decision to step down in July 2013 and what his plans are once he leaves the district.
Freeman, 67, has been superintendent of the district since 1988 and started as an industrial arts teacher in 1967. He lives in Shaker Heights and sent his three children to the schools. Shaker Heights Patch spoke to Freeman Wednesday about his decision to leave once his contract ends in July 2013.
You've been superintendent for 24 years and started at Shaker Heights in 1967. What inspired you to stay with the district all of those years?
I feel fortunate that the community has wanted me for all of this time. I think the Shaker school system is superb. It’s a marvelous place to work. We have a talented faculty and staff, a supportive community, and above all, great students. Great alums come back and tell us what a great education they’ve received in Shaker.
What sets Shaker apart from other school districts?
The people in Shaker. The citizens of Shaker Heights care very much about education. They understand that an educated populace is central to having a functioning democracy, and they care about others.
Why are you stepping down?
I’ve been certainly thinking about it for several years. The school district is now in an excellent position. We have just implemented the International Baccalaureate. We've done the necessary maintenance of buildings and professional development. Our strategic plan is now in place ... And I think now it's time to look for a person who will be here for another, at least, I can't speculate but seven to 10 years, maybe longer. And I'm getting older.
Why did you make the announcement now?
So that the school board would have as much time as they felt was necessary to fill the position. When I talked with them about leaving, they asked if I would make an announcement so they had a large window of time to involve the community and get a good replacement.
What challenges does a new superintendent face?
I think the lack of stability of school finance in the state of Ohio creates a very difficult situation in leading a school district. In saying that, it's important to know the citizens of Shaker Heights have been supportive.
There are issues of technology, a long-term facilities plan and a refined strategic plan as well as the professional development needs of the faculty. And we have to continue to work on the achievement gap.
Looking back at your tenure at Shaker, what makes you proud?
What I’m most proud of are that these things are not attributable to me. This is a system of dedicated faculty, an incredible administrative staff, supportive boards of education, all diverse, and they’re working together as a team. And I believe that that’s really what it’s about.
What qualities do you want to see in the person who replaces you?
I certainly believe (the school board) will look for someone who continues to drive the school district forward, respects its past and understands the importance of the school district to the community and to the children and youth that are being served.
What will you do once you leave in July 2013?
I’m going to sit back and relax and spend some time with family, perhaps traveling and pursuing other interests and then deciding what I want to do.