Mark Porter looks to grow as he moves on from District 833 superintendent jobPeople grow from their experiences, Mark Porter said as he reflected on his 30 years in School District 833 with three of them in the highest post as superintendent.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
People grow from their experiences, Mark Porter said as he reflected on his 30 years in School District 833 with three of them in the highest post as superintendent.
In an interview last week, Porter said he hopes to grow as he moves on in his education career.
Porter’s contract was not renewed by the School Board in December and the board conducted a nationwide search and hired Keith Jacobus who takes over July 1.
Porter said he has followed a “varied career path” but the non-contract renewal was his first reversal.
After graduating from St. Olaf College he became a teacher and later served one term on the District 833 School Board before becoming an attorney and returning to the district in that role and combining that with becoming director of human relations before he was superintendent.
“I’ve made different moves and made various choices,” he said, “but this is the first move that wasn’t my choice.”
A man of faith, Porter said he’s prayed about this turn of events in his life.
“I believe there is a plan,” he said, “and that my wife and I will find a place in life that we can be proud of even though it might not feel quite right, right now.”
Porter said many people have supported him throughout his career and especially since his contract was not renewed. Supporters are hosting an upcoming recognition event for him. He said he’s grateful for the support.
Porter has served in the cabinet of top district administrators for 15 years “in the chair next door” to the superintendent.
“I believe I did a good job though it wasn’t perfect,” he said.
Everyone does something well, he said, and other things not as well. The goal is to put them in a position where they are doing well the majority of the time.
In that process, Porter said he tried to remain in the background as an observer. That might have been perceived as non-involvement or that he didn’t care. He might also have seemed aloof, he said.
Some of his strongest relationships were cemented while he was in his role as contract negotiator with district bargaining groups, according to Porter.
Kids and adults are not different in that everyone needs positive encouragement.
As superintendent and as a negotiator, he tried to treat everyone with respect and build consensus decisions, something he said he also tried to do with school board members.
Across the nation, the current political environment is not one that encourages consensus, he said, because people are choosing sides and staying there.
In his final job review, the board and staff members didn’t give him high marks for communication and staff relationships. It might have been his style of leadership that some thought “was a weakness,” he said.
Crossing over from his role as an administrator to superintendent led him to an entirely different leadership path, he said. Good leaders create opportunities for others to reach excellence and find a way to help kids gets better.
“Leadership is like coaching,” Porter said. “It’s getting a small number of people to help the betterment of a larger group. That’s what I tried to accomplish.”
Friends and supporters of outgoing District 833 Superintendent Mark Porter are hosting a celebration of community to honor him and his wife, Jane, for 32 years of service to the district, from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, June 21, at the Prom Center in Oakdale. The event will be a dessert reception and will feature musical entertainment and a brief program. Admission is $20 per person. The Porters—grateful for the support—are using the celebration proceeds to benefit the Berean Missional Church/Harvest Movement, an outreach ministry in St. Paul that focuses on at-risk youth. All proceeds in excess of costs will go to the mission’s efforts.