Mark Cowell has only been the interim superintendent in Cherry Hill Public Schools for less than a month, but he’s already gotten to meet some members of the community.
From speaking to teachers participating in professional development to witnessing students participating in township’s Summer Glee Camp at Cherry Hill East, Cowell has witnessed and experienced a sample of what he’ll see when the school year begins on Sept. 1. He said seeing people around the district in the middle of July made him realize how invested the community is in its schools.
“It’s the teachers, parents and the students,” Cowell said. “If you have those three components, you’re going to be a good district.”
Cowell was hired on June 9 to serve as the interim superintendent following the resignation of Maureen Reusche. Cowell will serve in the superintendent position until the board of education makes a permanent hire. The board is beginning to interview candidates and plans to make a hire sometime in the fall.
Cowell last served as a superintendent in 2006 in the Pemberton Township School District. After he retired from that position, he served as a state fiscal monitor for New Jersey. In the position, he oversaw operations in districts such as Asbury Park, Pleasantville, Trenton and Camden. He retired from state fiscal monitor in 2013.
During his time as state fiscal monitor, Cowell received interest from school districts looking for an interim superintendent.
“I’ve had my name on the list for a number of years to be an interim superintendent,” he said. “I was called many times, but I was state monitor. I told them ‘No, I can’t do it, I’m not interested.’”
Earlier this year, about two years after retiring from the state fiscal monitor position, Cowell discovered he wanted a new challenge. It was then when Cherry Hill and two other school districts came calling.
“I figured, why not, let’s try it,” he said.
Cowell interviewed with the board of education shortly thereafter. From the interview, Cowell felt the district was a perfect match.
“I came for the interview and I met the board members and answered their questions,” Cowell said. “I thought this is a pretty good place. I feel that I have a lot to offer still. I have a lot of energy. I felt that I could contribute to the district.”
As interim superintendent, Cowell described his role as being a placeholder. He said his main goal is to help the district through the summer and the early part of next school year.
“I have found a few things I can help with and that’s what I’m working on,” he said. “As issues come up, I can deal with them as well.”
Cowell has experience in a variety of areas. He was a teacher for 12 years at Marcus Newcomb School and served as a business administrator at Pemberton for more than a decade before being hired as superintendent in 2001.
Cowell has been impressed with a number of aspects of Cherry Hill. It began when he attended his first board of education meeting on June 9.
“I was most impressed with how the board runs their business at a meeting,” he said. “The committee reports and how they’re put out and the in-depth discussions. You go to a lot of board meetings in other districts and you don’t see that.”
Cowell was also impressed with the relationship between the school district and municipality.
“The district and the municipality work so well together,” he said. “I’ve already been to the mayor’s office and met with him. I met with the chief of police. Cherry Hill is lucky to have such strong leaders.”
Cowell’s tenure in Cherry Hill is expected to be short. However, Cowell won’t be finished with education when he leaves Cherry Hill. Cowell is one of five people running unopposed for school board in the New Hope-Solebury School District this fall and will likely be elected to a seat in November.