Peers honor Mark Froke Mark Froke is relatively new to his job as top administrator of Vermillion Public Schools, but his rich experience hasn't gone unnoticed by his peers. This summer he received the Outstanding School Superintendent of the Year award from the South Dakota School Superintendent's Association. Gov. Mike Rounds (right) presents the award. by Loretta Sorensen When Mark Froke began combining business and education courses while he was in college, he realized that he could bring his business skills to schools to help make a difference in his community.
The Vermillion school superintendent, who was recently recognized by his peers as the Outstanding School Superintendent of the Year, said he quickly realized that his interest in both fields could benefit many people in many ways.
"I started with business courses while I was in college," Froke said. "When I enrolled in a couple of education courses, I developed an interest in education. I soon realized that in the position of school superintendent I could blend the two interests."
A native of Vienna, a small Clark County town of less than 100 residents, Froke completed the first six grades of elementary school in his hometown. He then completed his junior high and high school years at Willow Lake. From there, he attended Northern State College where he completed his business and education degrees. He would go on to complete courses related to serving as school principal, then obtain a specialist degree and doctorate in education at the University of South Dakota.
His experience as a superintendent was gained as he served in the Conde and Lake Preston districts. Before coming to Vermillion in July 2004, Froke served for 16 years as Flandreau's school superintendent.
The South Dakota School Superintendent's Association (SDSSA) presented Froke with the award, which is given annually to a South Dakota school superintendent who meets the criteria.
"They review your biographical sketch," Froke said. "Your education and experience is also important, and professional memberships in organizations and associations are taken into consideration. Community service is another aspect of the evaluation."
The purpose of the SDSSA is to promote continuous improvement of public education, research on public school and professional problems, protection and advancement of the professional interests of administrators of public education, and professional spirit and growth of members. The award is a means of recognizing individuals who embody those objectives.
Froke said he believes that involvement with the community is very important to anyone who holds the position of school superintendent. His July 1 move to Vermillion took him out of the Flandreau community where he had been highly involved in community activities.
As he becomes acclimated to his new job and area, he knows he will begin to become active again.
"In my past position, I was an officer with the development corporation," Froke said. "I was also a member of the civic commerce association and the school booster club. I've also been involved in church activities.
"Joe Gertsema (superintendent of Yankton Public Schools) received the award four years ago, so I feel like I'm in pretty good company."
One of the things that attracted Froke to the Vermillion school district was its long history of quality education. That reputation, he said, speaks well of the district in light of the current issues in education.
"Vermillion has always been seen as one of the best school districts in the state," Froke said. "I've only been here for a couple of months, but I can see that it's certainly true."
In the 24 years that he's been involved with education, Froke said he has seen some shifts in the focus of his position. Making the most of limited financial resources is probably one of the biggest challenges educators face today, he noted.
"Making sure we use those resources in a fair and equitable manner is a much stronger challenge than it has ever been," he said.
Accountability for results, Froke noted, is another major issue in education that has caused administrators and teachers to carefully evaluate their strategies.
"I think it's a positive thing, that we're very conscious of the results of our education system," Froke said. "It's certainly a more prevalent issue than it was when I first entered the profession. Because the focus is more results-oriented, we're very aware that we need to be doing the best job possible."
South Dakota test results consistently demonstrate that the state's educators are doing a good job, Froke said. Scores that rank above national averages in every category are tangible proof of the efforts administrators and teachers put forth.
"It's important to note that the test scores from the Vermillion district are consistently above the national and state averages in every area," Froke said. "I think South Dakota citizens can be very proud of our educational system."
Among the rewards of his position, Froke said, are seeing the success of his staff and students and working as part of a team to meet objectives. Visiting the classrooms as often as possible is one way he stays in touch with both groups.
"I particularly like to visit with the primary age children. They're always very interesting," Froke said. "I've been in this business a fair amount of time. I've seen some of my students grow up, become parents and strong members of their community.
"That's very rewarding. It also makes it possible for me to meet many different people, and I've greatly enjoyed that over the years."