ROCKY MOUNT – Franklin County Public School’s will be looking for a new superintendent in 2020. After seven years of service, current superintendent Dr. Mark Church announced Monday night he will be retiring August 1, 2020, two years before his contract with the school system was to end in June 2022.
The announcement came at the Franklin County School Board Meeting Monday night.
“I am an educator at heart, and the next chapter of my work will most likely be tied to the education field,” Church said in a press release Monday night.
Church may be retiring from his post at Franklin County Public Schools, but he says he is not retiring altogether. He says his next job will likely be tied to the education field. Church will continue working as an Adjunct Professor at his alma mater, James Madison University where he teaches courses for future instructional leaders.
Church grew up in Franklin County and was a student at Boones Mill Elementary, Franklin County Middle School, and is a 1982 graduate of Franklin County High School (FCHS).
Church’s 34-year career includes a decorated tenure of 20 years with Franklin County Public Schools. Church was appointed interim superintendent, then superintendent in 2012 following the contentious departure of Dr. Charles Lackey in 2012. Lackey was the at the helm of the school system since 2006 until he was fired by the school board in 2012 after highly-publicized controversies involving school funding.
Church was a breath of fresh air in 2012, having worked at Franklin County High School as Franklin County’s Director of Career and Technical Education (CTE).
“Dr. Church will do a great job,” then Franklin County School Board Ed Jamison told the Franklin News-Post in 2012. “With his credentials and his passion for our school system and students, we are pleased to announce his appointment.”
Church’s involvement in SkillsUSA (VICA) has bled into the culture of Franklin County schools. He led the Virginia SkillsUSA before coming to Franklin County. He was also the Industrial Training Teacher Coordinator for Lynchburg City and Rockingham County schools. Franklin County has been active in SkillsUSA state competitions for years, with a fully-operational television station, operated by FCHS students, serving as one of the public examples of the program’s success.
Church led Franklin County Public Schools through tough economic times. He oversaw energy and paper-saving initiatives and led the move to a self-insured health insurance program that will give participants a one-time premium holiday.
During his tenure, Church oversaw the introduction to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), a problem-based learning program and Virginia’s first middle school New Tech program at the innovative Gereau Center in Rocky Mount, which quickly expanded to Franklin County High School.
Church’s commitment to innovation and technology has been demonstrated by the addition of school-issued Chromebooks to freshmen at FCHS. One-on-one computers have also been implemented in the county’s elementary schools.
Still, Church’s announcement comes at a time when many students and parents have expressed concern over the school system’s handling of school lunches for all students and a playground at Snow Creek Elementary earlier in the year. The two hot-button issues have since been resolved after much social media outcry and public input from parents.
Church explained the reasoning of the prior school lunch program at the high school and the legal requirements behind the Snow Creek playground issue recently on Cable 12’s Rise and Shine program.
Church told the board that even though his retirement will be at the beginning of the school year, there is still lots of work to be done before he leaves. He will work with teachers and leaders to ensure a smooth transition once a new superintendent is named, he said.
Church said he wanted to continue his interest in public schools after his tenure as a public citizen with the Franklin County School Board and the Franklin County Board of Supervisors to address “grossly inadequate facilities”, citing the need for new heating and cooling systems at Benjamin Franklin Middle School and the need for a new Career and Technical Education Facility. He also mentioned the need to boost salaries for school employees, citing how other area school systems now have higher salaries than Franklin County’s.
“I am most proud of my role in helping to create and sustain a positive work environment for the division employees, and in helping to provide Franklin County Public School students with a quality education including experiences and results that are envied by colleagues across the Commonwealth,” Church said.