The search for St. Michaels University School’s first new head of school in 20 years is complete.
Mark Turner accepted the position after a thorough search and arrived this summer with his wife Elizabeth, one of his two sons, Alexander (22), and Martha the flat-coat retriever. The family will reside on campus in SMUS’ Reynolds House.
Turner’s last post was an eight-year tenure at Shrewsbury School in England where he oversaw its graduation into the modern era of co-education.
Shrewsbury, like St. Michaels, is both a boarding school and a day school, something that’s still unique among private schools, he said. What brought him here was SMUS’ reputation. After 20 years, Bob Snowden retired from the head of school position at SMUS and, while interim Andy Rodford was at the helm, a recruiter tracked Turner down.
“There are many similarities here,” Turner said. “Schools are about communities, the talented students and committed faculty, and here, the blend of day students and boarders from around the world, gives it a unique character.”
An athlete and an academic, Turner even spent a short time acquainting himself with the rules of another unique piece of Canadiana, the Canadian Football League.
“I’ve been studying the rules, and I noticed the league’s slogan, ‘Diversity is Strength,’” he said. “I have that in mind as I get to know the school’s community made up of 1,000 students, staff, parents and alumni. And to uphold SMUS’ reputation as a leading school in B.C. and Greater Victoria.
“It’s very clear, everyone has been telling me that SMUS’ academic reputation is very high, and I will want to reinforce that reputation in the first couple of years,” Turner said. “To keep [SMUS] as a leading academic school in Greater Victoria is a key part of my job.”
Of course Greater Victoria, more than any other region in B.C., is a holdout for English sports. Rugby is in most schools here, including St. Michaels, while American football is not. And St. Michaels is one of the few schools that are committed to cricket in addition to the local high school field hockey, rugby and rowing scene.
In three weeks this summer Turner has held multiple meetings with Snowden and held a briefing with Rodford, as he continues to prepare for the coming school year.
“Snowden deserves a lot of credit. Over his two decades as head of school, SMUS grew from 500 to 1,000 students and the facilities built on campus are shining examples of best practices,” he said. “I’m honoured to take over after what he achieved.”
So far Turner and his partner have toured the Island, driving the route from Cowichan Lake to Port Renfrew, and flew to Haida Gwaii.
Turner’s head of school contract starts with a typical five-year appointment.