The Liverpool Central School District conducted a nationwide search for its new superintendent, but it needn’t have looked far from home.
Last week, the LCSD Board of Education announced the appointment of Mark Potter to the position. Potter, who is currently serving as the district’s executive director of secondary education, will start Aug. 1, replacing Interim Superintendent Edward P. Backus. Backus took over for Dr. Richard N. Johns, who went out on medical leave in March. Johns joined the district in 2009.
Potter served as an athletic director and principal at Altmar-Parish-Williamstown before coming to Liverpool in 2007 as the coordinator of academics and acting athletic director. At Liverpool, Potter was also the principal of the FOCUS program during the 2011-12 school year. Budget cuts closed down the program after just a year. He moved into central administration last year after Ellen Kuno’s retirement, taking over as executive director of secondary education.
Potter said he decided late in the process to apply for the position at Liverpool, though he has applied to other districts in the past.
“I have applied and interviewed for superintendent’s positions in the past, at Phoenix two years ago and at Central Square last year, so it’s always been part of my career plan to look at the position of superintendent,” he said. “With regard to Liverpool, I didn’t start thinking about it until last November and I didn’t actually submit anything until the brochure came out in January.”
Potter was one of 20 applicants, 12 of whom were accepted by the BOE, according to board President Patricia DeBona-Rosier. Five candidates were determined to be viable, and the board then narrowed the field to three. Potter was selected as the best for the job in part because he already has an intimate knowledge of the district.
“His knowledge of Liverpool and his passion for Liverpool set Mark apart,” Rosier said. “As an internal candidate, he already knew all the players, as well as the district’s strengths and weaknesses. This allowed Mark to have a different kind of entry plan than that of other candidates. Having worked in the district for six years in a variety of different capacities and jobs, he had already demonstrated his versatility and his ability to effectively inspire others. Mark’s student-centered philosophy drives all of his decisions and he has a genuine commitment to help Liverpool reach its fullest potential.”
Just because the district selected an internal candidate doesn’t mean the board didn’t do its due diligence in the search process, however.
“We employed a very inclusive superintendent search process that included 96 people — students, teachers, secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, support staff, managers, administrators, parents and community members,” Rosier said. “The nine advisory groups into which they were formed assisted the board in developing the profile for our new superintendent, interviewing the finalists and providing us with their feedback about the candidates. This provided the board with a variety of perspectives about the finalists that was invaluable to the selection process. This was a very successful collaborative effort, in my opinion.”
Both Rosier and Potter noted that the new super’s biggest challenge is likely to be one faced by superintendents across the state: financial and budgetary concerns.
“We continue to face both economic challenges and mandate challenges from the state education department as well as the U.S. Department of Education,” Potter said. “There have been a number of mandates rolled out in terms of obviously testing, personnel, curriculum, et cetera. But there’s nothing out there to help us get enacted financially.”
Rosier said Potter was selected for the top spot in Liverpool in part because the board was confident he could rise to that challenge.
“One of Mark’s strengths is his strong people skills,” she said. “He actively listens and is interested in what others have to say. He welcomes discussion and differing viewpoints, and is a creative thinker, which will be extremely helpful in the challenging financial times ahead.”
Though he’s been with the district for six years, Potter acknowledged that there would be a learning curve to which he’d have to adjust.
“Having been in the job in one facet of education, that being secondary education, I think I have to still take the time to learn and understand the pieces that I haven’t had that much association with. That includes relations with the community in elementary education, food services, transportation services — all of the support services that are meaningful to kids getting to and from school and being successful while they’re there,” he said. “These are some of the places where I have to get myself out there and try to demonstrate that we want to partner with the community and that we’ll do the right thing to help kids become ready for the next step after Liverpool, whether that’s college or vocational school or the job market.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.