ELKHART — Mark Mow’s career with Elkhart Community Schools will come to a close at the end of this month.
The Elkhart native’s time with the school corporation, though, goes beyond his 40 years teaching and in administration in Elkhart. It began when Mow entered his kindergarten class at Mary Beck Elementary. He graduated from Elkhart High School in 1965.
It’s Mow’s background in Elkhart and dedication to his hometown that several of Mow’s coworkers said helped make him an exceptional local leader.
“Mark is a very rare superintendent — in all of superintendency everywhere, to grow up in a community, to go to school in a community and become superintendent in that community ... That’s a rare perspective,” said John Hill, Elkhart’s director of curriculum and instruction.
Bruce Klonowski, longtime principal of Hawthorne Elementary, said that Mow has a sense of pride in the Elkhart community.
“He’s got a legacy, if you will, of his family here in Elkhart, both as a student and a teacher and administrator,” Klonowski said.
“I think his leadership efforts will be felt in this community for many, many years to come,” he continued.
With his retirement at the end of the month, Mow will no longer formally be a part of the Elkhart school system, but said he and his wife, Kathryn, plan to remain in Elkhart, where Mow will still be very involved in community groups and efforts, including volunteering in the schools.
“I intend to stay active in the community as much as possible,” he said.
The main thing he’ll miss about being superintendent, Mow said, is the relationships within the school corporation he’s formed.
“Elkhart is fortunate to have a very caring, highly competent staff and a very caring, supportive community,” he said. “It’s really a very great community.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree in education at Indiana University, Mow returned to Elkhart to teach science at North Side Junior High in 1970, later becoming its assistant principal. He then moved into a principalship at Brookdale Junior High School. For two years in the 1980s, Mow was principal at Heritage Middle School in Middlebury, but returned to Elkhart to work as the director of business operations, then becoming the assistant superintendent of business. In 2002, he became superintendent.
“The job has been interesting and challenging and I’ve enjoyed a lot of different things,” he said. “I’ve felt very fortunate, very honored to do the work.”
He’s also confident in the students he sees coming through Elkhart schools and the leadership many of them bring.
“I see kids when they enter kindergarten and then when they graduate from high school, and I get to talk to a lot of the high school students as seniors,” he said. “The future for this community and the country is very, very bright.”
Mow said he worked to build on the strong foundation of the schools left by leaders before him and wanted to create “a culture of continuous improvement,” while also expanding and maintaining a comprehensive program.
Several school principals and administrators listed programs Mow helped bring about in the school system, including robotics, expanded high ability programming and the Science 2 Go Bus, a mobile science lab.
Besides specific programs, several Elkhart Schools leaders said it was Mow’s listening ear and considerate approach to work and leadership that they so admire.
“He’s always very much a gentleman in his work,” Doug Hasler, executive director of support services, said, describing him as having a “calm, professional, steady leadership.”
That includes always being willing to listen to ideas, several principals said, and being aware of the time and energy principals put in to their work.
“He’s been very, very sensitive as far as how much pressure teachers can take,” said Bruce Klonowski, longtime principal of Hawthorne Elementary. Along with that, Klonowski credited Mow for always being prepared, knowing the background of programs, and for his attention to details. Despite the long list of Mow’s responsibilities, Klonowski said Mow’s office demonstrates his organization.
“How the man can keep his desk so clean is beside me,” Klonowski said.
Like others, Mark Tobolski, Memorial High School principal, complimented Mow for his willingness to listen, consider new ideas and recognize teacher and school achievement.
“He’s been the heart and soul of Elkhart for a long time,” Tobolski said, adding later that “if people didn’t know, Mark will always be committed to the city of Elkhart — not just the schools, but the city.”