Outgoing SCCC director to assume superintendency at Santa Fe
A goal he said he'd had for the past six or seven years came to fruition for Derek Lark in the fall of 2015.
Lark accepted the position of superintendent at the Santa Fe R-10 School District after a 19-year career at Marshall Public Schools. Lark began his tenure with the Marshall district as a seventh grade science teacher and athletics coach while also coaching wrestling at Missouri Valley College. For the past eight years, he held the position of director at the Saline County Career Center after also serving as a high school director and a middle school assistant principal. He continued to serve as director of the Saline County High School during his first two years as SCCC director.
He said he always thought he would continue to teach and coach for his entire career. However, an injury he suffered wrestling prevented him from continuing to coach, opening the door for him to transition into the administrative side of education.
"I said, 'You know really, no, I just always saw teaching and coaching in my future,'" Lark said of initially being approached about an administrative career. "But time changes things... I would say for the past six-seven years I've aspired to become a superintendent and take that step to lead a district."
Lark said he'd never applied for a position with a district outside of Marshall and Santa Fe. He added that staying nearby would allow him to continue to stay in touch with the Marshall community while having a more clear picture of his future opportunities.
"Marshall has been very, very good to me," Lark said. "I'm as happy as I could be here. I've learned a ton professionally, and personally have made a lot of very close friends here in the community of Marshall, so it's not like I want to leave Marshall. However, Santa Fe is a community and a school district that I know a lot of people there, my wife knows a lot of people. It's very much like the community of Adel, Iowa, where I grew up -- a lot of similar characteristics. So, that's something that I'm very comfortable with. I wasn't out looking for a job, looking to leave Marshall, but Santa Fe was one that was enticing for all the right was enticing for all the right reasons."
Lark will become just the fifth superintendent in the history of the district, which was reorganized in 1964 and includes an elementary school in Waverly and a junior and senior high school in Alma. Lark will replace retiring Superintendent Gini Barnett.
"I just hope that I can do as good of a job as Dr. Barnett's done over there. She's done an outstanding job and took on a pretty tough situation at the time when she came in."
He said he will be tasked with maintaining the current expectations in his new position.
"There at Santa Fe, they've been so successful in recent years, really in all areas -- academically, extracuricularly -- there's not a lot that needs fixed."
The MPS Board of Education officially accepted Lark's resignation as SCCC Director Tuesday, Nov. 24, effective at the end of the 2015-2016 school year. He will be replaced by Mitch Holder, currently a business teacher at the Trenton R-9 School District. Marshall Superintendent Carol Maher said she had mixed feelings about Lark's impending departure.
"Derek has been such an awesome member of the school family for so long, I know he's going to be really missed," Maher said. "I'm excited for his future. I know taking the superintendency is gong to be a big step for him."
Among his goals for the remainder of the school year, Lark said he would like to see the SCCC expand on its student outreach to the community as much as possible through more programs involving on the job training, job shadowing, and internships.
Lark's contract with MPS will end in May while his new contract with Santa Fe will begin July 1, though he said he expects to have work to either finish or begin at both places in between those dates.
Note: Arron Hustead is a staff writer with The Marshall Democrat-News. This article originally published in MDN in February 2016.