Mark Froke is new school superintendent

Mark Froke is new school superintendent Mark Froke by David Lias Dr. Mark Froke has helped the Flandreau School District meet challenges while providing an excellent education for its students.

He hopes to do the same here in Vermillion.

The Vermillion School Board announced Monday that Froke has accepted a three-year contract to serve as the local district's new superintendent.

He will replace Dr. Bob Mayer, who has served as superintendent here for seven years.

Last February Mayer was offered, and accepted, the superintendent's job for the Watertown School District.

There will be a seamless transition in the local school administration office. Mayer's last day is June 30. Froke's first day of work will be July 1.

He was introduced to school staff and local citizens in a brief presentation Tuesday morning in the Vermillion High School Auditorium.

"My goodness, what a terrific place," Froke said, standing behind a podium on the auditorium stage. "I can only imagine the great productions that take place here in this fine performing arts facility.

"I'm really honored to be here," he said. "I want you to know that you can be really proud of your school board for the professionalism and the solidarity they exhibited through the selection process."

Froke was a finalist for Vermillion's superintendent job in 1997, but Mayer was hired instead. This time around, Froke was selected from a field of 20 people who applied for the position.

According to school board president Tom Craig, the board reached its decision last Wednesday. Froke and the board agreed on starting annual pay of $87,000. He was offered a contract extending to June 30, 2007.

"The events of the past few days have been exciting and also gratifying by my selection as superintendent of the Vermillion School District," Froke said.

He grew up in Vienna, and is a graduate of Willow Lake High School. In 1975, he received a bachelor of science degree from Northern State College, and received master of science degrees from Northern in 1977 and 1979.

Froke continued his education, earning a educational specialist degree from The University of South Dakota in 1987. He received an educational doctorate degree from USD in 1993.

Froke began his career in education as a business teacher at Grant-Deuel High School, Revillo. From 1979-84, he was superintendent and high school principal at Conde Public Schools.

He accepted a job as superintendent of Lake Preston Public Schools in 1984. He stayed there until 1988, when he was hired as superintendent of Flandreau Public Schools � a job he has held for the last 16 years.

Froke was recently elected to the National Governing Board of the American Association of School Administrators, and serves as an executive board

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member of the Flandreau Improvement Corporation.

He and his wife, Kathy, have been married 25 years, and are the parents of two children, Eric, 19, a freshman at South Dakota State University, and Krista, 15, a freshman at Flandreau High School.

In a meeting with reporters later Tuesday morning, Froke said he was glad to have had more time to work as the head school administrator in Flandreau.

"I was able to take care of a number of things in our own district in Flandreau," he said. "We did a great deal of building in that time, and also, we did a a lot of curriculum work and technology development."

Froke said his vision for education includes maximizing student achievement and learning opportunities to help all students become successful.

Vermillion's new superintendent also believes in providing opportunities so that staff can obtain their professional goals.

"Towards that effort as well, I want to include the community whenever possible, and make that community/parent bond with the school a solid one," Froke said. "That will take place through communication."

The Vermillion School District used Ray and Associates, a consulting firm from Cedar Rapids, IA, as well as four local committees and the school board itself in hiring Froke.

Craig said at Mondays' board meeting that the consultants worked with teachers, administrators and the community to create profile of characteristics needed for Vermillion's next superintendent.

The profile was used to narrow down the initial field of 20 applicants down to eight. The school board selected three of those candidates, and interviewed them last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Froke was offered the superintendent's job last Wednesday.

The new superintendent said he was highly aware of the Vermillion's School District's tradition of educational excellence.

He also knows of its financial challenges. He faced similar monetary hurdles in Flandreau.

"We were as high as 995 students at one time (in Flandreau), but we experienced the same enrollment decline that has been faced by many school districts in the state," Froke said. "That's posed some challenges in the Flandreau district, because as student numbers decline, so does the funding."

The Flandreau district is facing those challenges with administrators working closely with staff. "We kept the community informed and things have gone well in handling that decline in enrollment and decline in school funding."

Froke's interest in one day being the head administrator of the Vermillion district first became apparent in 1997, when he was a finalist for the job.

"I've always had my eye on Vermillion," he said. "I'm very aware of the quality programs you have here in the Vermillion School District."

He said he reviewed the achievement scores of local students, and was always pleased to learn that the Vermillion district was among the state's strongest performers.

"Also, I felt a commitment to excellence here in the district," Froke said. "You can tell there's a great deal of community pride and support for education just by looking at what is done with the facilities in the community."

Student achievement, he said, will be his number one priority.

"Promoting student achievement has to be your number one priority in a school district when you are the school leader," he said. "Everything that I will do in the district will lead to enhancing that area."

Froke said he knows that an property tax opt-out attempted by the school board last fall was rejected by voters. The board has had to spend down reserves and recently had to resort to trimming staff and programs to keep the district's finances out of the red.

Froke said he doesn't know if another opt-out attempt will be planned, citing his need to first examine the local district's finances closely.

"Any possible future plans for an opt-out remain in the hands of the school board," he said, "and I would assume through a close communication with the community. We will have to show that they can trust the information that we can provide them."

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