By Caroline Horne--Eagle Staff Assistant Editor
Dr. Mark Church has held the role of superintendent for eight of his 20 years of service at Franklin County Public Schools, and is now passing the torch to Dr. Bernice Cobbs.
During his time at FCPS, Church says he is most proud of the staff culture he was able to help create.
“We really did build a very good team of teachers and administrators who have the best interests of young people in mind and do a great job everyday,” Church said.
Church was scheduled to retire at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, but delayed his retirement based on the COVID-19 pandemic. The School Board asked him to postpone until the end of 2020 because of the unprecedented issues.
“We were really trying to push to get students back in the classroom. The parents and students are saying, for the most part, ‘we want to go back and be with our friends and learning online is just not fun’, and we have the teachers who say, ‘wait a minute, what about our health?’ So what we’re looking at is how you make the best decision,” Church explained.
Church said that his goal has been to keep students, teachers, and their families healthy, mentally and physically.
“The struggle is that you want to make decisions and make everyone happy, and you just can’t,” Church remarked.
As for any loose ends left untied, Church wishes he were able to start a Career and Technical Education center in the county.
“I was the Career and Technical Education director before I took the superintendency, and the Career and Technical center would probably be the one thing on the table that we weren’t able to pull off. I would have loved to have more scholarships and different programs, but there just wasn’t time,” Church said.
As for his personal plans, Church hopes to travel and spend time with his grandchildren upon retirement.
“This is the weirdest time to retire, because now I have time and I can’t go anywhere,” Church laughed.
Once it’s safe to travel, Church has a specific goal to achieve:
“I want to get to all fifty states. I have all of the states from the Dakotas through Texas, all the Eastern states except for Vermont, so I need to get Vermont,” Church commented, “I need Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, and then I’ll have all fifty states. But, I don’t wanna drive there--I wanna fly in, spend the night, come back, and be able to say I did it.”
As Dr. Bernice Cobbs transitions into Church’s role as superintendent, he says that he had a good feeling she would be his replacement.
“I think she was the frontrunner going in, and we never looked for anyone on the outside to beat her. Given the people, the structure of the process, and the politics, she was hard to beat,” Church said.
Regardless of any what-ifs, Church is proud of the time he spent at Franklin County Public Schools.
“I really feel good about what we’ve done. I don’t lay awake at night and say, ‘we should have done this, we should have done that.’ We worked hard for teachers and students and I think we tried, especially here at the end. We changed our philosophy from just teaching to mastering online instruction, and that leaves a lot of things on the table,” Church remarked.