Mark Steele

Mark Steele, superintendent of Indian River School District, pictured here in February of 2020.

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 school board video conference 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, he 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, 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 [that] we’ve been in existence than any other district of this size.”

Steele came to 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 state secretary 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 funding challenges and rapid enrollment growth, to finally getting approval for two new school buildings, to a historic worldwide pandemic that had over 11,000 IR 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 work load 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 IRSD Board of Education. “Words cannot express my true feelings for you as a leader.”

Steele 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.