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Virginia Journal of Education

Ten Minutes with…Mark Lineburg

Position:  Superintendent
Local Assn.:  Winchester Education Association     
Years worked in education: 24 years

What is a typical school day like for you?
Urgency is the word that best describes my typical day. The sprint begins at 5 a.m., reading the morning education headlines from across the Commonwealth and the nation. This is followed by writing emails and sharing pertinent news via Twitter. I love the opportunity to engage colleagues and the public in the important issues of the day. Meetings fill the calendar from top to bottom, ranging from dialogue with School Board or City Council members to staff, instructional or operational meetings. In addition, there are a plethora of other functions and lunch meetings related to the political nature of being a superintendent. The unquestionable highlights of my day, though, are daily visits to schools. Interacting with principals, teachers, students and staff is most enjoyable and most valuable. The end of the day, at least three days a week, brings some type of night work, ranging from school board meetings to school functions. The pace of the job is invigorating!

What do you like about your job?
I am eternally optimistic and believe today’s students and teachers are the best in the history of public education. After 24 years in the profession, I am more enthused about public schools than ever before. Simply put, by any measure our public schools are the best they have ever been. From a weekly reading group in elementary schools to the variety of student programs I get to be part of, the interaction with students is what I love about my job. I still get a kick out of walking down the hall and having a student call out my name, slap me a high-five, or talk about politics or sports. It is also rewarding to see decisions made as superintendent have a positive impact on schools and students. There is tremendous pride in hiring a great teacher or principal who changes the community. School, I love school! 

What is hard about your job?
Surprisingly, or not, being a teacher or principal or superintendent can be equally challenging. All demand long hours but all have great rewards. In my opinion, the most difficult of all is high school assistant principal! The list of difficulties for superintendents can be extensive, from personnel issues to perpetual budget battles. Meeting expectations in hiring can be tough because with each hire there are a number of great candidates who are deserving but not selected. Another obstacle for superintendents is the lack of resources in public schools. I have come to the conclusion that most people want great schools but few want to invest the amount of money required to meet expectations. The greatest daily challenge in public schools is the never-ending battle against poverty. Children in poverty remain the greatest barrier to student performance, achievement and behavior. I continue to be easily hurt and defensive when public schools are criticized for the so-called achievement gap. I believe the most accurate representation for differences in achievement is an opportunity and resource gap. Closing those gaps remains a daunting challenge. 

What are some of the most fun and unusual things that have happened on the job?
There have been so many mountaintop experiences that I could write a book. The beauty of school is that it changes daily. As an administrator for most of my career I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. However, the majority of events are filled with love and laughter. I’ve been moved to tears watching a musical with students on Broadway and rejoiced in the locker rooms of championship wins where black, white and all colors scored great victories against all odds. I have been bereft following the murder of a student or a teacher, and in cases of child abuse.  In spite of all these events there have been few bad days and I am always renewed by the profound positive relationship between students and teachers. 

How has being an Association member been helpful to you?
I am most proud that the Virginia Education Association advocates for teachers and students. There are few professional organizations willing to focus on the most important part of our profession and to take a stand. I can count on the VEA for its unwavering commitment to fight for public school teachers, staff and students. Advocacy! Let’s have courage to ask the challenging questions.


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