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Birmingham Board of Ed welcomes Mark Sullivan, interim BCS chief

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The Birmingham Board of Education voted to appoint Dr. Mark A. Sullivan, Chief of Staff for Birmingham City Schools, as Interim Superintendent for the system during a special-called board meeting on May 14. (Marvin Gentry, For The Birmingham Times)
By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

Being named interim superintendent for Birmingham City Schools comes at a challenging time for Mark A. Sullivan, ED.D., but there are some takeaways that could benefit students, he said.

Access to technology for all students, out of school for the past two months because to the COVID-19 coronavirus, is foremost, he said. During the pandemic a large number of students have been completing work online and others with paper and pencil.

“We have a committee now to look at how we can buy devices for our students so that [all] can compete with anyone locally and nationally,” said Sullivan on Thursday outside the Board of Education building in downtown Birmingham where he was introduced as the interim. “We’ve been out of school since March 13 . . . my goal is to bring something to the board for consideration in June so that kids can have devices when we return to school in August.”

On Wednesday, the Birmingham Board of Education appointed Sullivan to replace outgoing Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring.

Sullivan said he plans to build on the momentum the system began under Herring. “We will continue to be a Force for Greatness and we will continue to move forward and we will do this with a relentless pursuit of excellence for all of our schools,” he said.

Daagye Hendricks, board president, pointed out that Sullivan, former chief of staff at BCS, is familiar with the system.

“Dr. Sullivan is not new to Birmingham, most of our parents, community and teachers know him and his myriad of work speaks for itself,” Hendricks said. “He has had impact in our classrooms from the position of principal all the way up to the position of chief of staff.

Sullivan acknowledged his ties to the metro area.

“This is my home and you are my family,” he said during his introductory press conference which was attended by a majority of school board members. “I have been here in many capacities and in all of those I stand to serve, our children, our families and parents, our teachers and staff and the Birmingham School system.”

His immediate goal, he said, is “to lead Birmingham City Schools and its children to achieve historic levels of academic excellence” and assess how school will proceed in the fall. One option is to begin schools after Labor Day, he said.

“We haven’t had that conversation with the board, but we’re going to follow the guidelines of the health department and state health officials around what is in the best interest of our students… if things are the way they are now, our prediction is going to be late August or early September.”

BCS staff are also looking to celebrate 2020 graduates with some form of a graduation ceremony.

“We want to ensure that the students are given something very special . . . we’re talking about a red carpet where kids get out of their cars and walk on the red carpet and go on the stage and receive their diploma and we’re also working with our IT department to have our valedictorians and salutatorians give their speeches virtually.”

A native of Birmingham and a product of the city schools, Sullivan has served the system for more than 25 years as an educator and administrator. He taught fifth grade at Glen Iris Elementary and math at Center Street Middle School before transitioning to administration.

Previous to his role as chief of staff, Dr. Sullivan served as Director of Area III, Director of K-8 School Operations, and Interim Assistant Superintendent, and Academic Officer for the system. He has led Spaulding Elementary School, John Herbert Phillips Academy, Ramsay High School, and Glen Iris Elementary School, as well as Elyton Elementary School as Interim Principal.

After graduating from Woodlawn High School, Sullivan earned his undergraduate degree in elementary education from Alabama Agriculture & Mechanical University, his master’s degree from Alabama State University, and both his educational specialist and educational leadership doctorate degrees from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Sullivan served 24 years in the United States Naval Reserves before retiring. He has also been a member of community organizations such as Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, 100 Black Men of Birmingham, and Boy Scouts of Central Alabama and is a member of Phi Delta Kappa, the National Association of Black School Educators, and the National Education Association.

Updated at 11:07 a.m. on 5/15/2020 to clarify in headline Mark Sullivan’s title