Mark Steele

After three years as superintendent of the Indian River School District and 39 years combined working for the district in that role, as well as teacher, assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent, Mark Steele will retire as of July 1.

After a lifetime in local education, Superintendent Mark Steele announced that he will be retiring from the Indian River School District, effective on Wednesday, July 1.

“I think I’ve reached a point where retirement is where I need to go,” Steele announced at the video-conferenced school board meeting on June 22. “I couldn’t have worked for better people, and for 39 years this district has treated me great.”

A lifelong Dagsboro resident, Steele graduated from and returned to teach at Indian River High School for 10 years; became assistant principal for about eight years; and principal from 1999 to 2013.

Today, Steele said, he feels the IRSD is on a solid path for the future.

“I don’t have any doubt in the strength of this school district with the people we have involved,” said Steele, complimenting the IRSD staff, administrators and officials. There have been heated discussions and long hours, he said, but IRSD “is a great district, people. We’ve managed to accomplish more things in the past 50 years we’ve been in existence than any other district of this size.”

Steele came to the IRSD central office as an assistant superintendent in mid-2013, and officially took the chief role in March of 2017 when his predecessor, Susan Bunting, was appointed to head the Delaware Department of Education.

He often emphasized the importance of community involvement and would encourage the public to call him with questions.

His three years as superintendent have been marked by extraordinary circumstances, from rapid enrollment growth in schools, to finally getting approval for two new school buildings to a historic worldwide pandemic that had more than 11,000 IRSD students finishing the 2019-2020 school year from home. (One of his final responsibilities last week was to certify IRSD graduates at seven commencement ceremonies.)

Steele has helped the district pass two types of public referendum votes, both for new building and for general revenue, although they sometimes took a few tries, which meant a high workload for administrators.

“There’s no one that we felt better to put ourselves behind with on the referendum … the positivity, being out there, being judged by the public, you’ve done an outstanding job,” said Rodney Layfield, vice president of the IRSD Board of Education. “Words cannot express my true feelings for you as a leader.”

Steele said he had been mulling retirement for several years and has finally landed on this moment.

“It is a pleasure to work with every single one of you,” Steele concluded. “You’re great people. I just think it’s time to make the decision — I need to do something for me.”

Steele has been IRSD’s sixth superintendent since the district formed in 1969.

Staff Reporter

Laura Walter is an award-winning reporter on schools, environment, people and history. A graduate of Indian River High School and Washington College, she has rappelled off a building and assisted a magician, and encourages readers to act on local issues.