New schools’ interim superintendent sets tone early

Dr. Vickie L. Markavitch is up and running, steering the Oxford School District towards a future of “top tier” education, moving forward and recovery. Photo by D. Rush

Dr. Vicki Markivich started last week

By Don Rush

On November 23, a day before Thanksgiving Vickie Markavitch, 78, was in her Bridgman, Michigan home, preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for 21 people and six dogs. Then her phone rang.

John Silveri from the Michigan Leadership Institute called,” the relatively retired Dr. Vickie L. Markavitch recalled. “He said, ‘Vickie, I know you’re retired, but you are long experienced. You’ve worked at a lot of places and I have a district that really needs the kinds of experinces you have.’ And, the minute he said, ‘Oxford’ – of course I knew of the tragedy in Oxford. They had been in my thoughts and prayers ever since it happened – so, when he said the word ‘Oxford,’ I knew it wasn’t just going to be an immediate ‘no’ answer. Since it was the day before Thanksgiving, I said, ‘John, I have to talk to my husband and think on it for at least a day or two.’ Which I did. My husband (Stan) is very supportive, he said, ‘If you think it’s right, Vickie, we’ll do it.’ And, it felt right. It felt like this was something I was supposed to do.”

This past December the Oxford School District announced it would hire Dr. Markavitch as Interim Superintendent. She started January 9 and will be here until the end of June. She attended her first school board meeting as Superintendent last Tuesday night.

Who is Dr. Markavitch

Dr. Markavitch served as the superintendent of Oakland County Schools for 11 years supporting all 28 Oakland County public school districts, “public academies and private schools that educate the 230,000 students in Oakland County.” After retiring in 2015, she continued on as an educational consultant for a year to help the Pontiac School District work its way out of debt. “They, their board, superintendent and staff did all the hard work and they deserve credit. We helped them,” she said from her new office at the Oxford Schools Administration building on N. Washington Street. In 2016, working as a consultant from her new home in Bridgman, she helped the Benton Harbor School District work through their own debt issues. That took about two years, she said.

Prior to the Oakland County Schools superintendency, she served as the superintendent for three different school districts: Penn-Harris-Madison in Indiana, Niles Township High School District outside of Chicago, IL, and Skokie School District in Illinois.

Personally, she and husband Stan have been married for 56 years. They have two daughters who live out of state, four grandchildren, three dogs and “two great son-in-laws.” Living with the Markavitchs in their Bridgman home is her 99-year-old mother and her full-time, live-in caregiver.

Bridgman is near Lake Michigan, in the state’s southwestern region – about three and half hour drive from Oxford.

We were able to find a nice cottage in the area, on a lake for six months,” she said. Stan visits and one of their three dogs stays with her.

What Dr. Markavitch hope to achieve in Oxford

There are wonderful people here to work with. And, most of the work of moving on to recovery is doing that while we are remembering and honoring and learning from what happened. It’s going to be done by the people who are already here in Oxford and by the people who come to Oxford for longer than six months,” she said. “I’m just hoping that in the six months that I am here I can add value to the effort of moving forward, again while honoring and respecting the depth of feelings and experiences related to the tragedy.”

She talked of “balance” that will need to happen on this road to recovery.

We have 6,000 children coming to us every day. We owe it to them to continue to be top tier and to continue all of the good work that we bring to our kids. We had a huge tragedy here that impacted a lot of lives and we have to respect and honor that. We owe that to all the people who were impacted.”

She said she had three top priorities: continuing the top tier academics “We have to make sure we don’t get in the way of a good education”; safety and security; and communications.

The most urgent priority she sees for herself at the district concerns the safety and security. “We need to make sure we are putting a lot of good things in place, but you have to implement them with fidelity and to do that you have to monitor, you have to assess, you have to manage, you have to monitor again, assess and re-manage. It’s a continuous cycle. I don’t know if we can get to total fidelity in six months but I have to set up the structure by which we evaluate that regularly so we can get to overall fidelity as soon as possible.”

She said her third priority will be communications – especially communicating about what the district is doing in regards to safety and security. “We need to communicate to the staff, the parents, the students and community what we are doing. I want to elevate communications to a level where it’s never been before. Communication is going to be critical. We have to be timely, transparent and responsive. The way we will rebuild some of the community trust and the fact we are doing everything humanly possible to keep students and staff safe, not just physically but socially and emotionally as well. We will have to communicate that out so the trust can continue and build.”

She’s also a stickler for civility. At the end of the January 10 board meeting, as the public began their comments. She spoke up and interjected into the commentary, which on some local social media pages a number of adults didn’t like. When asked about it a day after the meeting she shared her thoughts.

I am experienced enough and old enough to say what I think. I don’t hold back, so you get that with me. When you get somebody my age, with the experiences I have had, I just sensed that the commentary was beginning to move into an arena of disrespect and lack civility. We had just heard at the beginning of the meeting about the Lakeville Elementary students and about all they were doing about learning about behaviors and learning how to deal with differences and disagreements. Juxtapose that to where I thought the public commentary was going. I felt I had to make a call out on that. We can’t have our public meetings of adults demonstrate behavior that we would not expect of our children. It’s just not right.

Now what can a public body do, if it becomes uncivil – if we ever get to the point where we don’t have civility, I will respectfully ask the board to adjourn the meeting. Leave the room and reconvene when civility has come back. Because it is important when making decisions you have civil discourse and it is very important as a learning institution that we model for children the behavior we expect them to have.”

When asked if there was one thing she wanted to tell the Oxford community. She took a minute to think and with a little emotion quite concisely, Vickie Markavitch simply said, “I know we have to move on, for the 6,000 kids and I don’t want the community to think that we don’t care, that we are forgetting or not honoring what they lost. I want the community to know it will never be forgotten. There is a great deal of sadness. As we move forward we’re going to learn from what happened as well as remembering it. I am the one charged now with moving forward, and I want the community to know that I will do that with great care and respect and honor for what people here have gone through and what they are still going through.”



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