This past week, Marketing and Communications Director Chanelle Bertelsen sat down with Head of School Mark Turner to ask him some pertinent questions on behalf of the SMUS community as we navigate Mark’s 2025 retirement from St. Michaels University School and the trajectory ahead of this significant leadership transition:
C.B.: We extend our gratitude to you, Mark, for participating in this important discussion. I’d like to start by asking you, as the Head of School, when do you plan on retiring from SMUS?
Mark Turner: I've been privileged to serve as the Head of School at SMUS since 2018, and it's been an incredible journey. After a combined 30 years as a Head of School in the U.K., and what will be seven years here at SMUS, I have decided to retire from this role on August 31, 2025. Although I'm thoroughly enjoying the progress we've made with the Floreat 2030 Strategic Plan and life here in Victoria, I believe it's the right time to pass the torch to a new Head of School—someone equipped with a fresh vision who will continue building on the momentum we have achieved thus far.
C.B.: What is the process for identifying the next Head of School?
M.T.: The SMUS Board of Governors has been diligently working on a plan for some time. We've established a Head of School Search Committee that has already appointed the renowned international executive-search consultants, Perrett Laver, to lead the recruiting process. Our aim is to identify a new Head of School by 2024, which will allow for a smooth transition and a thorough handover during the 2024-25 school year.
C.B.: Will the search for Head of School be worldwide?
M.T.: That’s a great question—SMUS is resolutely dedicated to the meticulous evaluation of candidates who bring forth commendable experience from diverse origins, encompassing the local, provincial, national, and international spheres. Our profound commitment to the principles of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) compels us to actively welcome and engage with individuals from a rich array of backgrounds and experiences.
C.B.: Will the SMUS community get the opportunity to comment on the profile of the new Head of School?
M.T.: Absolutely. Perrett Laver, with the support of the SMUS Board, will be actively seeking input from our community, including that of faculty, staff, parents, and students. We'll be conducting surveys and focus groups to ensure that the candidate profile aligns with the needs and aspirations of our community moving forward.
C.B.: September 2025 is still some time away; what happens in the meantime?
M.T.: I am dedicated to the realization of the objectives set forth in the Floreat 2030 Strategic Plan, and I anticipate a future filled with much hard work and further exciting endeavours. Notably, the Board of Governors has recently granted approval for the Middle School refurbishment project. I will do all I can in the next 18 months to ensure that the school is in the best possible shape as it welcomes my successor.
C.B.: Is it true, Mark, that you will also be taking a sabbatical in 2024?
M.T.: Yes. When I joined SMUS in 2018, the school generously offered me a three-month sabbatical after completing my first five years as Head of School. So, it is in that vein that, between April and July 2024, I will begin a sabbatical for the purpose of recharging and preparing for my final year leading SMUS. During my absence, Eliot Anderson, our Deputy Head of School, will step up as Acting Head of School for the last few months of the 2023-24 academic year.
C.B.: What is next once you leave SMUS?
M.T.: Elizabeth and I have always planned to retire back to our home in Dorset, England. At that juncture, I intend to devote more time to voluntary work and have been offered positions on the boards of several leading independent schools. Additionally, I'm looking forward to pursuing some hobbies, including the renovation of an old farmhouse, and enjoying some well-deserved fishing!
C.B.: Will there be an opportunity to thank you and Elizabeth in due course?
M.T.: Absolutely. As we approach the end of the 2024-25 school year, I know opportunities will be arranged for the SMUS community to bid farewell to Elizabeth and me. For my part however, I'm truly looking forward to expressing my gratitude to every part of the SMUS community for the warm welcome we've received during our time in Victoria. Serving as the Head of School at SMUS has been a privilege, and I'm excited to express my thanks in person.
C.B.: How are you feeling having made this important decision?
M.T.: I know it is the right decision, both for me and SMUS. Fresh energy will bring further momentum. Nevertheless, I can’t pretend there isn’t a tingle of regret. This is such a special community that we have enjoyed enormously and that has embraced us. We have so many blessings to count.
C.B.: Now that the end is in sight, what are the main achievements of the last five years?
M.T.: How long is a piece of string! Together, we have: launched the Floreat 2030 Strategic Plan; unanimously adopted the Campus Master Plan; completed the Junior School Trottier-Morgan Annex, on-time and on- budget; navigated COVID-19; increased boarding- and day applications to record levels; built strong financial foundations; promoted academic rigour…and cemented SMUS’ reputation as the best place for learners to learn and teachers to teach in B.C.
C.B.: Mark, I'm grateful for your time, and I believe we can bring this to a close for now. I'm certain there's more to discuss in the future.