Superintendent shares his thoughts as he prepares for exit from Rockwood

Superintendent+Mark+Miles+addresses+the+board+and+patrons+during+the+May+6+Board+of+Education+meeting.+At+the+meeting%2C+over+30+patrons+spoke+their+opinions+about+recent+curriculum+controversy+with+the+meeting+lasting+about+three+hours.

Makayla Archambeault

Superintendent Mark Miles addresses the board and patrons during the May 6 Board of Education meeting. At the meeting, over 30 patrons spoke their opinions about recent curriculum controversy with the meeting lasting about three hours.

Vijay Viswanathan, Opinions Editor

“There were a number of factors that contributed to my retirement. It is bittersweet as I have loved my time in the Rockwood School District, and it is bittersweet as I have served 26 years in the field of education. It has been a difficult decision without a doubt,” Rockwood School District (RSD) Superintendent Mark Miles said. 

Miles announced his retirement on April 9, even though the Board of Education voted to renew Miles’s contract in February 2020 for another four years.  Miles took over as superintendent in 2019 after the departure of former superintendent Eric Knost. 

Most of Miles’s tenure as superintendent has been defined by the COVID-19 pandemic and the fight over in-person versus online schooling during the pandemic as well as new battles over diversity and curriculum in Rockwood. 

“As I’ve shared with others, the role of superintendent comes with a certain amount of criticism, because it’s difficult to please all people all the time, and decisions are sometimes difficult to make, when we’re weighing a variety of factors and making any decision, but we’re always trying to make the best decision for the benefit of our students,” Miles said. 

Miles considers the fight over returning to school during the pandemic as one of the factors contributing to his retirement. 

“The decision making around COVID-19, around remote learning and starting the year virtually, and then deciding when to bring students back, and what mitigation factors to have, definitely added an element of stress. The job of superintendent is a difficult one, even without a global pandemic going on,” Miles said. 

In recent weeks, there has been an uptick in comments being made to the BOE other staff members that contain vulgar language, stemming from the fight over returning to school during the pandemic and the issue of some parent concerns over some curriculum content in Rockwood. 

“I would say that some of the disrespectful language utilized on social media that added to the negative atmosphere and my mental and emotional state. I’m a human being as well, and hurtful words are difficult to accept, especially when you’re doing your very best to make good decisions for children. That would be another factor that played a role [in my retirement.],” Miles said. 

On diversity, Miles said he believed teaching about diversity was necessary for students because it helps them be better prepared in the real world. 

“I think we are preparing our students for the world beyond K-12 education. And, our world is a diverse world. So, I think our students need to have the knowledge skills necessary to work well with. And I think our efforts with diversity, equality and inclusion will yield dividends for the future as our children enter and consider their futures,” Miles said. 

Miles also said things such as returning to in-person schooling and keeping the district running through the initial onset of the pandemic are some of the triumphs he has accomplished during his time as superintendent of RSD. 

“Having the opportunity to manage and lead through a global pandemic, with an extremely talented administration team has been a triumph. Getting our children back into school, very early on in the fall was one of those triumphs. But, I think as you think about the story of the Mark Miles superintendent, that story will most likely be told by others and those triumphs will likely be identified by others,” he said. 

However, Miles also said he did not harbor any feelings of regret during his time as superintendent of Rockwood. 

“As I look upon my time within the Rockwood School District, regret is not a term I would choose to use, because of the relationships that have been built and the successes that we’ve experienced, even in the midst of a global pandemic,” he said. 

As for his future after education, Miles is finalizing an opportunity in the private sector. And, he does have a bit of his advice for his successor. 

“My advice is that they get to know our strategic plan, The Way Forward. I would also say to get to know this  community. I would also encourage them to be a visible presence in our classrooms, not only during the day in our schools, but also in the evenings. I’ve been able to attend quite a few athletic events, art performances-those are always thrilling to see because we have some many talented students in those areas,” he added.