JACKSONVILLE — Mark Petersen will no longer run Jacksonville’s public school system.
At a called meeting Thursday, the Jacksonville City Schools Board of Education unanimously voted to approve Petersen’s resignation, which was delivered the previous Saturday and becomes effective on May 18, though Petersen will cease his duties immediately. Mike Newell, the school system’s current director of operations, was approved to serve as acting superintendent while a search for a successor is underway.
Petersen didn’t attend Thursday’s meeting, and early attempts to reach him following the meeting were unsuccessful.
Newell, who was asked to serve by the board after Petersen’s resignation was received, said no reasoning was given along with the notice of departure.
“It was a shock to all of us,” Newell said after the meeting.
“I’d like to thank Dr. Petersen for his devotion and his dedication to the students, staff and faculty at Jacksonville City Schools,” board president Jeff Gossett said before the vote. “We appreciate his efforts and wish him the very best.”
Petersen was hired in October 2015 to helm the school district after the removal of his predecessor, John Paul Campbell. Petersen had served as superintendent of the Greenwood, S.C., school district for the six years prior to his hiring. Petersen also worked as principal at two Georgia schools and superintendent of two Georgia county school systems prior to his move to South Carolina.
Petersen presided over Jacksonville’s school system during the completion and move-in of the current Kitty Stone Elementary building, which was finished in the summer of 2016.
The board purchased a new office building under Petersen’s leadership in September, allowing it to vacate its current complex at the now-JSU owned former Kitty Stone campus ahead of a September 2020 end of the lease.
“I’m really looking forward to continuing our strategic plan and making sure we accomplish those goals,” Newell said after the meeting. “My main goal is to try and make this transition go as seamlessly as possible while maintaining all the services that our community is accustomed to.”
Board members expressed gratitude to Newell for stepping into the role after the vote for his appointment in the barely six-minute-long meeting.
“Anything you need, you let us know. Let’s put it that way.” Gossett said.
“I’d like to thank you for stepping up and taking this and helping to lead the school system,” Place 3 member Ed Canady told Newell. “We greatly appreciate what you’re doing.”