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Former DUSD Administrator Dave Marken Returns to Dublin With a Purpose

May 4, 2019

DUBLIN, CA–The most recent Dublin Unified School District meeting confirmed the return of one of its “native sons.” The employment contract for Dr. Dave Marken was affirmed in his role as Interim Superintendent of the DUSD. Given the fiscal/academic calendar, his role is confirmed through June 20, 2019. This employment agreement will be in force through this date or when a permanent successor is tendered employment. The new employment calendar will commence on July 1, 2019 and there remains an opportunity for the school district to retain his services until such a hire is executed.

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For some members of the Dublin community, Dr. Marken is a known quantity. During his 13 year tenure, he wore many significant caps – including leadership roles at Dublin High School through key administrative positions in the district office. He capped his tenure while serving as Assistant Superintendent of both Education Services and Human Resources. Subsequently, he served as the Superintendent of Schools in the Newark Unified School District for five years, ultimately retiring in 2016.

The last two+ years in the Dublin Unified School District have been highlighted with significant challenges. Dublin continues to be the fastest growing city in the Northern California. Enrollment projections estimate that there will be more than 13,000 in classrooms during the 2020-21 school year. This unprecedented growth has caused a strain on the existing facilities infrastructure. The challenges have been compounded by the need for a second high school campus to be constructed and the uneven rollout of the Cottonwood Creek School site. Some of these issues ultimately led to the mutual separation between DUSD and Dr. Leslie Boozer. In the aftermath, an interim solution became urgent.

OneDublin.org recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Marken to discuss his priorities in his current role. The position is unique in that it cannot be viewed as a “career” opportunity. However, the role also should not be viewed as a “place holder.” The desire/need for a second high school campus has not waned and capital construction projects at both Murray and Frederiksen Elementary Schools will commence shortly. On top of everything else, the potential continuation of the Parcel Tax election of Measure E will occur on May 7th. These are some of the enlightening thoughts that he shared with us.

OneDublin.org: After a decorated career in education that concluded with your retirement as the Superintendent in Newark, what moved/motivated you to accept the interim Superintendency of DUSD?

Dave Marken: “My thirteen years in the Dublin Unified School District makes up a significant portion of my career. During this time, I grew as an educator and administrator, made lifelong friends, and helped to create the vision for the Dublin High School we see today. It’s safe to say this district holds a special place in my heart. Beyond my professional experience, I was always impressed with Dublin as a community. So many people that went to school here come back to teach or to educate their children. People that have moved away still feel a special connection. Representative Eric Swalwell’s event at Dublin High is a great example.

“Recently, I was asked by the district to work with Principal Byrne at Dublin High School in a mentor capacity. That opportunity rekindled my affection for this district and town. At the same time, it was clear that things had changed during my time away. This city and district have experienced a unique set of circumstances that would have been difficult for anyone to navigate. As a result, the spirit in the district wasn’t what it should be. I wanted to bring some of the joy back. So when I was approached by the board to serve as interim superintendent, it was hard to resist the offer. There is an opportunity to have a positive impact on a district and city I love, and who could resist that?”

OneDublin.org: During our discussion, you mention three vital qualities to assist in the “rebuild” process in the district. You wished that these characteristics could be shared by all stakeholders: Hope, Trust and Transparency. Please articulate more specifically what you meant.

Marken: “The challenges the district has been going through have complicated its relationship with the community. To be clear, I do not blame any one person for this situation. In some sense, it was a perfect storm. We have seen explosive growth, low state funding of public education, lack of reimbursement from the state on key building projects, imperfect projections, etc. No one person could control all that. I don’t look back and try to assess blame. I’m here to look forward and try to work with everyone in the community to rebuild our relationships and to set the foundation for the future Superintendent.

“The process of rebuilding this relationship hinges on a few key elements, those being hope, trust, and transparency. I want our community to feel good about the district, where it is going and what that means for their children. It’s important for people to feel this sense of hope and optimism about the institution they have entrusted to educate their child. While we can’t address everyone’s concerns or fix every problem in a district of this size, we need our community to trust that all our actions are done with the best interest of our students. While I believe that administrators and board members always act with the best interest of the student, a perceived lack of transparency can make it difficult for the community to understand why certain decisions are being made. It is also critical for the community to understand the challenges we face. It’s important to admit when and where we have made mistakes. That level of transparency is a real trust-builder.”

OneDublin.org: Based upon your previous years in this district, you have a unique perspective of Dublin. However, the community and demographics of the district have changed. Given the opportunity, what wisdom would you impart to your successor?

Marken: “I’m not sure that the wisdom I would impart on my successor is born from my past experience in Dublin alone. It would be based on the whole of my professional experience. The main advice I have is to take your time and get to know the community you are now part of. Go out and meet with administrators, educators, students, parents, business leaders and elected officials. Honor the culture and traditions of this rich and amazing school district. Don’t come in and attempt to apply your template for success. Learn what makes Dublin unique and work from there. When you have a plan in place, it should focus on some short term issues, but also have a clear long term vision that you are working towards. Most of all, the new Superintendent needs to embrace the notion of building hope, trust and transparency.”

OneDublin.org: The fiscal calendar will end on June 30. Your approved employment contract allows for you to continue in the current role until a permanent Superintendent is identified and is tendered a contract. What short/mid/long term goals will you focus on during your tenure at DUSD?

Marken: “There were a few areas of focus I identified as I accepted the interim position. The first was to end the contract negotiations and to do so with a two year agreement. Thankfully, both parties agreed to a two year contract, so a major hurdle has been cleared. The benefit of the two-year contract is that my successor will have time to get to know the district without the immediate pressure of contract negotiations. We also need to solidify our site leadership. There has been a lot of transition recently. Most of it is understandable, with APs taking principal roles in other districts, or people transitioning to new opportunities within the district. Still, transition creates uncertainty and that is something we need to address. We need to bring on new leadership at Green, but have an excellent interim while that happens. We need to welcome new leadership at Fallon. Most importantly, we need to create a platform for success for all our site leaders.”

OneDublin.org: Anything else that you would like to add?

Marken: “Sure, this is a GREAT city and a GREAT school district! The community has much to be proud of when they think Dublin Unified School District. The students are receiving a phenomenally well-rounded education taught by a quality group of professionals and support staff.”

So, the next chapter in the history of the Dublin Unified School District will unfold the next several months. Presently, at the wheel is a leader that knows the community well and will strive to segment the short term needs that must be addressed while establishing a path for his successor that we all hope will lead to fiscal, functional and academic long-term success. It may beg the question “Can you come back home?” The answer is “yes” with a purpose. OneDublin.org would like to thank Dr. Marken for his insights and willingness to share his aspirations for DUSD.

In the mind, in the heart, I was always home. I always imagined, really, going back home. Miriam Makeba – South African Singer/Activist.

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