Cameron Clark announces resignation from CASMAN Academy director position

MANISTEE — There is little doubt about the strong feelings that Cameron Clark carries for the CASMAN Alternative Academy, because like most outstanding educators he wears his feelings and loyalty to his school on his sleeve.

Cameron Clark

Clark has poured his heart and soul into the CASMAN Academy over the past 14 years during which he served a four-year stint on the board of education before taking over the director’s position for the past 10 years. He said it was a bittersweet decision when he announced this week that he will soon be stepping down from his director position to accept a job at Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA).

“The association wants to expand the support they provide to charter schools throughout the state, and my role will be to work with roughly 65 charter schools over a very broad geographic region trying to provide them with any kind of support they may need to improve,” said Clark. “For every school that support may be different, but the point of it is MAPSA wants to offer additional support to schools as things become more trying financially and requirements for all the kids are getting more staunch. They hired me and several others to address those needs.”

The decision to leave CASMAN was difficult, but Clark knew that not taking the opportunity to advance his professional career would go against what he has been teaching the students at the school for the past decade. He has been an ardent advocate of students reaching their full potential to be the best they possible can in what they attempt to achieve.

Clark said his new position will require him to be on the road and cover a very large geographical area in the state.

“I will be based out of my home, but as I was telling the board the other day that I will kind of be like a man without a country,” said Clark. “The area I am in is up from Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Holland and across to Flint and including the upper peninsula.”

One of the positive aspects of his coverage area is that it will also include CASMAN Academy. That means he can periodically stop in and will be keeping tabs on the school even after he has left.

“I get a chance to be here and watch how they continue to grow,” said Clark.

CASMAN Academy Board of Education President Donn Lemmer said that they feel they will still benefit from Clark’s expertise.

“It is actually exciting for us from our perspective because we will still have a relationship with Cameron, but also the organization is bringing in a new support function for all charter schools,” said Lemmer. “He already has the added benefit of understanding and knowing us.”

The former CASMAN director said it was a difficult decision to leave the school because of his strong ties to it.

“The board has seen that in many ways over the past several weeks and it is almost like the wider I smile the more it hurts,” said Clark. “There aren’t many schools like CASMAN in the state and I have been blessed to be a part of it since 1997, which was pretty much its inception.”

Clark said MAPSA has been very understanding about his starting time with the organization. They have taken that into consideration as he winds down at CASMAN Academy.

“The association has been pretty liberal as I am tailing off here, and the end of this month I will be done,” said Clark. “I will start with them on the first of July. I have done some orientation stuff with them, but I need things to wrap up here yet before I go full steam with them.”

Lemmer pointed out that even though they are losing Clark the system they have built at CASMAN is strong and will keep moving forward in a positive manner. Current principal Sarah Bailey has been hired to take over Clark’s position as director at CASMAN. Her position will not be replaced, as she will operate in a dual position with support from other personnel.

“There is going to be a transition of sorts as we have already selected Sarah Bailey to move into the director position so we have consistency in that,” said Lemmer. “She knows where we are at and the goals we have and our vision for the future, so it is real nice set up.”

Lemmer said that Bailey is more than ready to hit the road running in that position as she has been taking on more duties for in her principal position over the past few years.

“Cameron’s style is one of shared leadership and he has been working with Sarah for the last three years for perhaps this moment and that Sarah could pick up the responsibilities,” said Clark. “From a timing perspective it’s really right. Right now we are combining her present position and the director one for a year to see how that works out for the financial constraints that we are all (school districts) dealing with so we need to step back and reflect on how we are going to restructure.

“She will still have her support team that will pick up some of that slack.”

Lemmer said he feels that CASMAN will continue its progression forward on to even better things in the future now that they have a solid foundation to work with at the school. It is a transition that he feels will be almost seamless for the students and community.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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