Q&A Tuesday: New Pioneer principal ready to build on schools' strengths

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Mark Van Voorst, the new principal at Pioneer High School, left the helm at Douglas High School last semester to lead Carson City's alternative school this year.

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Mark Van Voorst, the new principal at Pioneer High School, left the helm at Douglas High School last semester to lead Carson City's alternative school this year.

He's been a principal, an athletic director and a construction worker. Mark Van Voorst leaves behind two years as principal at Douglas High School and comes north to work for the Carson City School District, where he will head up Pioneer High School.

He's already at work, having started July 1, and is in the process of hiring a teacher for the alternative-education program at Opportunity High School and combing through "assorted paperwork" for his new job.

What brings you to Pioneer High School from the much larger Douglas High?

"I was looking for a different type of challenge. I have always enjoyed working with students with challenges on an intimate level. This position will allow me to develop relationships with students and staff."

It's a different caliber of student at Pioneer. How would you describe your management style and will you adjust it for Pioneer?

"My management style is very direct. I believe in firm, fair and consistent communication of academic and behavioral standards. I have found that students, staff, and parents flourish in an environment where expectations are clear."

The student body has had a rather rough year with the death of Charles Keller. What will you do to get the students acquainted with you?

"I will be in classrooms on a frequent basis. I will get to know the students and parents by talking with them both formally and informally."

What are your ideas for bringing a continued tradition of success to Pioneer?

"I plan on continuing the successful programs created by Mr. Keller and implemented by the Pioneer and Opportunity school staff. The strength of an alternative school such as Pioneer is the ability to be flexible.

"This attribute is key to adjusting to the needs of students. I have many ideas that will build on the success already experienced by the students of Pioneer and Opportunity schools and that will prepare them for success in further education or entry into the workforce."

Is there anything that will change this year at Pioneer High School?

"I will initially spend a great deal of time focusing on student engagement by providing quality, sustained professional development to the certified teaching staff. Beyond that, I will evaluate the systems, policies, and procedures of the Carson City School District to define strategies that support the ability of the Pioneer and Opportunity schools to assist Carson High School and the Carson City School District to increase students' academic achievement."

Tell everyone about your previous experience in education. What year did you move to Nevada from Arizona? Did you teach in Arizona or were you in administration there?

"Before coming to Nevada, I held a number of administrative positions. I have been an athletic director, assistant principal and a principal. Before entering administration, I was a teacher at the elementary, middle and high school level.

"I entered teaching late after a career in construction in San Diego County. I have found that I have always gravitated toward teaching whether it is technology instruction, flight instruction or education."

What lessons will you bring to the Carson City School District about Nevada education that you culled while working for the Douglas County School District?

"I have learned through my experiences in Arizona and Nevada the value of using disaggregated data to drive educational decisions. I will be using these methods as well for the Carson City School district to design academic programs to remediate academic deficiencies or providing advanced programs for the students of Pioneer and Opportunity schools."

Since you've been in education in Arizona, can you tell us how the system there compares with the education students receive in Nevada?

"The educational systems of Nevada and Arizona focus on student achievement as measured by state designed tests. When I left Arizona these tests had not yet been mandated as a graduation requirement. To prepare our students for these tests we must do whatever it takes to guarantee success, whether that be seminars, tutoring or individual instruction."


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