Superintendent Chris van der Mark (left) is takes great pride in his work with the Smithers Secondary girls basketball team. (Tom Best photo)

Bulkley Valley SD 54 superintendent leaving

Chris van der Mark has been superintendent with SD54 for eight years, and has hands full in Cariboo.

After eight years as superintendent of Bulkley Valley School District 54 (SD54), superintendent Chris van der Mark is moving on.

His resignation goes into effect March 31. He will be taking over as superintendent at Cariboo-Chilcotin School District 27 (SD27) administered in Williams Lake.

“This is a bitter-sweet decision as I cannot express my gratitude for the support you and the Board of Education has shown me throughout my time in SD54. I am immensely proud of the work we have accomplished,” van der Mark stated in his letter to board chair Jennifer Williams.

The board released the following statement on his time in the Bulkley Valley:

“Mr. van der Mark successfully managed the School District through some difficult circumstances like school closures and declining enrollment. At the same time our district continued to improve and enhance it’s many educational programs and professional learning opportunities. Overall student achievement has improved, (particularly for Indigenous students) while student choice has expanded through the increase in trades programs, robotics, sports academies, and outdoor educational opportunities. Mr. van der Mark was also instrumental in getting approval for our Walnut Park replacement school currently under construction.”

The release said the recruitment process started immediately.

Read the 2011 story introducing van der Mark as superintendent.

SD27 released a statement expressing excitement at having replaced their former superintendent Mark Wintjes, who went back to teaching.

The district has had many challenges in recent years, including a vote of non-confidence against the board and management levied twice by the Cariboo Chilcotin Teachers Association. In the last year the SD27 board and management has been receiving guidance from a ministry-appointed special advisor.

Special advisor Mike McKay was appointed to help the board implement recommendations developed by education specialist Dianne Turner in a report to the minister last year. Following a look into SD27 operations, Turner’s recommendations focused on improving governance, business practices, communication, culture and relationships in SD27.

MacDonald told Black Press at the last board meeting that the new board, elected in November, is very focused and ready to work on building relationships and getting the board, and ultimately the district, back on a more positive track.

“An enthusiastic and passionate educator, Mr. van der Mark brings with him over 23 years of school/district administrative experience and joins [School District 27] from the Bulkley Valley (School District No. 54) where he has served as superintendent of schools for the past eight years,” stated interim superintendent Diane Wright.

“Prior to this, Mr. van der Mark held leadership positions as the assistant superintendent and as secondary school administrator.”

Wright said the Board received applications from a number of strong candidates, but chose van der Mark based on his demonstrated leadership capabilities, broad understanding of the B.C. Education Plan, commitment to fiscal responsibility and good governance, and focus on improving student outcomes.

“The Board of Education looks forward to working with Mr. van der Mark when he assumes his new role this spring,” stated board chair Willow MacDonald.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us but trust that Mr. van der Mark’s strength in leadership, sound educational background, and demonstrated ability to build strong working relationships with staff, students, and community partners will steer the district in the right direction.”

Read More: School District 27 Superintendent Mark Wintjes resigns

Read More: Special advisor appointed by education ministry to help implement recommendations

Read more: School board votes 6-0 to close Lake Kathlyn Elementary

Read more: New school for Walnut Park Elementary

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It has been a time of change in superintendent Chris van der Mark’s eight years at Bulkley Valley School District 54. He oversaw the school board’s decision to close Lake Kathlyn Elementary near Smithers. (Chris Gareau photo)

Another event superintendent Chris van der Mark oversaw was Rob Fleming announcing a new two-storey school to replace Walnut Park Elementary in Smithers. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Chris van der Mark when he joined Bulkley Valley School District 54 in 2011. (Archive photo)

Craig Roberts Memorial Award winner MacKinley Unruh (right) with coach and superintendent Chris van der Mark (left). The award was given to an athlete who overcame challenges and had outstanding performances on and off the field. (archive photo)

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