Archived Story

Losing a leader: Principals react to Daniel’s departure

Published 8:01am Friday, March 7, 2014

According to his future employers, the leadership qualities Mark Daniel honed over the past four years as Dowagiac Union School’s top educator made him the ideal candidate for his new job.

Leadership with McLean County Unit District 5, based out of McLean County, Ill., announced this week that they are moving ahead with plans to hire Daniel as their new superintendent. Daniel will begin his position with the district on July 1.

Daniel was chosen from a pool of around 35 candidates, after a four-month search conducted by hiring firm School Exec Connect, said McLean School Board President John Puzauskas.

“His personality, his accomplishments and his ability to have a vision and execute on it is something we needed for District 5,” Puzauskas said. “A lot of initiatives are in motion here that we expect him to pick up and drive to the next level.”

Puzauskas said that his district wanted a candidate that was student focused, with the ability to build strong relationships not only with the staff but also with local businesses and the community at large. After a series of interviews with the board, Puzauskas felt that Daniel was the right person for the job.

“I’m very confident the transition to our district will go smoothly,” Puzauskas said. “We have an excellent staff who will work with him to continue to accomplish the mission of the district.”

Puzauskas said that he recently visited Dowagiac to meet with administrators and educators to ask them about their impressions of Daniel’s tenure.

“They were positive about his accomplishments,” Puzauskas said. “By the time we left, it just confirmed what we already determined with our interviews [with Daniel].”

Many of the leaders Daniel has worked with over the past several years had positive things to say about the departing superintendent.

“I’m sad to see him go,” said Mike Campbell, principal at Sister Lakes Elementary. “He’s been very supportive of Sister Lakes over the last few years.”

Campbell said that Daniel has been on board with many of the changes the school has made to its curriculum in recent years, most notably the shift to split classrooms, where students from two grade levels share the same room and teacher. In addition, Campbell said that the superintendent supported effort to increase staffing for the school’s kindergarten classrooms.

“He was someone who came in and recognized what changes needed to be made,” Campbell said. “He was willing to recognize what needed to be improved and how go about improving it.”

Dowagiac Union High School Principal Pieter Hoekstra shared a similar opinion on the outgoing superintendent.

“He is a visionary thinker,” Hoekstra said. “He always thinks about the bigger picture.”

Daniel and Hoekstra have worked together over the last several years to improve a number of aspects about the high school, most notably the introduction of new technology such as digitally enhanced whiteboards know as “smart boards.” In addition, Daniel backed changes to the school’s disciplinary policy, which has resulted in improved student behavior, Hoekstra said.

“While we didn’t necessarily agree on every aspect, we respected each other’s opinions,” Hoekstra said. “He tried to see things from others’ viewpoints.”

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