- Posted April 1, 2022
Dr. Mark McDonald, former superintendent of District 99, passed away unexpectedly on March 30, 2022 after suffering a heart attack.
Mark had over 42 years experience in education. Before serving as superintendent of schools at District 99, he was a classroom teacher, coach, building administrator and district administrator. Mark began serving as superintendent of District 99 in 2008 until he retired in 2016. Before becoming superintendent, he was principal of South High from 2003 to 2008.
Mark made significant and positive contributions during his tenure at District 99 that have made a lasting impact. He led the creation of the 2011 strategic plan, which set into motion the multi-million dollar renovations of both North High and South High. His bar for excellence in academics was high; he advocated for enrolling more students in challenging courses as well as increasing support for those who needed it most. Under his leadership also came an increased focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum opportunities. He was a visionary, and supported the investment of purchasing laptops for all students, a program that continues today.
Mark knew that student success depended on teacher success. He was a champion of hiring quality teachers and then providing them with meaningful professional development. He had a strong rapport with all staff, and could be seen roaming the hallways at both schools and greeting everyone by name. Staff looked forward to his annual opening school year speeches. They were a rare time when Mark, who by nature had a serious demeanor, would share personal and funny stories about himself.
Mark knew that a strong support system was essential to the district’s work, and understood that communication was vital to building trust. Mark not only valued staff, but also everyone who is part of the community. He regularly attended meetings of the Downers Grove Rotary Club, Lions Club, Chamber630 and Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation, working closely with business leaders and village officials to build strong relationships. He served as ex-officio of the District 99 Education Foundation. He also respected families and their importance to student growth. Every graduation, he would ask the graduates to stand, look up in the stands, and applaud their parents and others who were at the ceremony for supporting them.
His philosophy was that the actions of District 99 should always be driven by the primary mission that students come first. In all of his roles, he was an ardent champion of students. He lit up whenever he was around them. In every position he held, he kept students at the forefront of every conversation he held and decision that he made.
Mark was an outstanding educator, colleague and friend who has touched the lives of many people. His legacy and life will always be remembered.