Focus on students, understand the data and build on successes. That’s the perspective of Mark Marshall, who this summer was named superintendent of the Los Banos Unified School District.
“I believe that we can accomplish a great deal working together,” Marshall told me, laying out the foundation for a (shall we say) Marshall Plan. “People may have differing opinions, and I respect that, but we are all working toward one goal, the success of our students.”
Marshall feels all of Los Banos has welcomed him.
“I’ve experienced a spirit of collaboration, not only within the school district but within the entire Los Banos community,” said Marshall, who now lives in the city.
Using a collaborative approach, Marshall is creating an environment in which school board meetings are now occasions for civilized discussions, a welcome change from the acrimony of recent years.
This is Marshall’s second job as a school superintendent. He spent five years in Lancaster as superintendent of Eastside Union School District, which had four elementary schools and one middle school. He chose Los Banos because it gave him an opportunity to lead a larger school district – LBUSD has 11,000 students and 1,200 employees and 12 schools with a budget of $120 million.
Marshall brings a wide range of experience to the job. He was born and raised in Houma, La., and has been an educator for over 30 years. He has been special education teacher, special education supervisor, assistant principal, middle school principal, high school principal and director of student services/special education. He’s worked in Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Washington and California.
In many of his positions, Marshall experienced what he called “tumultuous situations.”
In each case, he successfully instilled a collaborative approach and carefully examined data to improve student outcomes. When he arrived in Los Banos, he was well aware that he was coming into another tumultuous situation. “I don’t mind dealing with conflicts and challenges,” he said. “These are opportunities to utilize my knowledge, skills and experience.”
Marshall earned his B.A. and M.Ed. degrees in Special Education at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La. He completed his administrative certification and Ed.S. degree at the University of West Georgia and got his doctorate in educational leadership at Auburn University.
His dissertation at Auburn explored the competencies needed by individuals to be effective school administrators asking college professors, parents, administrators and teachers.
“I learned a lot from my doctoral work” Marshall said, “especially the importance of being a good communicator. This trait emerged across all of the groups in my study.”
Marshall, 51, has also completed post-doctoral study at Western Washington University and the UCLA extension. He was recently selected to participate in the prestigious American Association of School Administrators’ National Superintendent Certification Program.
As a classroom teacher and administrator, Marshall has gotten many accolades and has been a featured presenter at local, state and national conferences.
He’s also involved in civic and community associations and organizations – Kiwanis International, Rotary International and the alumni associations for Auburn, Nicholls State and West Georgia.
The biggest opportunity facing the district, he said, is growth.
“We are in a community that is growing; subsequently the school district will continue to grow and we need to plan carefully to accommodate that growth.”
Marshall also believes that improvements in student achievement should be examined in the broader context. He also believes in moving ahead by building on existing success. “Many of our schools experienced significant academic improvements last year. We have to recognize that success, as well as understand we need to improve.”
Mark Marshall had more to say in his interview, including talking about the value of building community partnerships with the city, law enforcement and local businesses. To find out more about “the Marshall Plan,” I encourage readers to attend future school board meetings, which are opportunities for sharing information and opinions in a respectful environment.
I wish Marshall the best as he continues to foster communication, civility, collaboration and increased student success.
John Spevak is a resident of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.