Proud to be MACS: May 2024

Below are remarks delivered at the April Board of Education Business Meeting at the MACS District Offices on May 21, 2024 by Board President James Emery.

Mark Lichtenstein BOE member

For some people, searching for a purpose becomes a lifelong quest. In the case of tonight’s Proud to be MACS recipient, Board of Education member Mark Lichtenstein, he discovered his purpose at an early age and this discovery has been to the benefit of many.

Mark grew up in the Sandy Pond area attending Pulaski schools until 7th grade when he transferred to Altmar Parish Williamstown, where his dad was a social studies teacher.

At APW, Mark played football and ran track, but, after being exposed to Syracuse University basketball stars Roosevelt Bouie and Louis Orr due to his mom being their English instructor at SU, and the rowdy fans of Manley Field House, Mark would help organize the fans of APW sports into a zealous body of cheering supporters - better known as the “zoo!”

While at APW, Mark met Mary. A few years later they would wed and be blessed with daughter, Danielle.

Following graduation from APW in 1979, Mark attended SUNY Cortland for one year before going to Florida where he found a job at Disney World for the summer.

Mark returned to Cortland but, after one year, grew homesick for Florida and for Disney, where, in those days, a former Disney employee was guaranteed a position if they decided to return.

At the time, Mark wanted to be around people that are happy, so Disney, known as the “happiest place on earth” was the perfect job. Not only did Mark want to be around happy people, but he wanted to make people happy.

It was at Disney where Mark discovered his purpose. It was that he wanted to give back or be a service to people. More importantly, Mark realized that an individual’s efforts can make a difference in the lives of others.

Also, during his time with Disney, Mark learned that the group that really makes an organization successful is the support staff, and recognizing the efforts of this staff at every opportunity is critical and the right thing to do.

Mark would attain an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts from a Community College in Florida.

Because Mark always had an interest in the environment, perhaps due to his childhood on Sandy Pond, and had been exposed to the Syracuse University campus where his mom worked, Mark enrolled in the College of Environmental Science and Foresty (ESF.)

Following graduation, Mark and Mary would wed and would move in with his mom, who, by then, was an administrator at Colgate University. Mary, a respiratory therapist, found a position at the hospital in Hamilton, New York.

Melvin Silliman, who worked on the Manhattan Project and whose wife, Barbara was a long-time teacher at MACS offered Mark an environmental position.

Melvin was associated with the Oswego County Environmental Council, a non-profit housed in the Oswego County Health Department.

Mark and Mary made a “leap of faith” and Mark took the position with the Oswego County Environmental Council.

Oswego County Administrator, Carolyn Rush saw a skill set in Mark and helped him navigate the administrative waters of County government that led Mark to start our county recycling program that eventually became our County Waste Management Program. Mark would become a leader in the State and Federal associations connected to the area of waste disposal.

Mark did mention that he was very fortunate to work with strong leaders like Carolyn Rush, Arthur Ospelt, Jack Proud, and Joannie Mahoney.

Mark would further his education by earning a Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.

Having purchased a house in Vermillion, Danielle would attend Palermo Elementary School and Mary would become President of Palermo’s parent organization. It is during that time that Mark believes that Mary and then MACS Superintendent Michael Havens “concocted” a plan to entice Mark to run for the Board of Education.

The plan worked and Mark was elected to the Board in 1999 and served until 2004.

Mark also believes that then Board President Dr. Chad Dawson saw an exit plan for himself when Mark joined the Board. Mark would replace Chad as President and would serve for three years in that capacity.

Every Board has certain challenges that it has to deal with, but Mark faced one of the most difficult following 9/11 when the local Sikh Temple was set on fire by some MACS students. Working with Ralph Singh, Mark attempted to repair relations with the temple, as well as educate the community on the Sikh religion. Mark would even visit India in 2002 and 2003 to learn and to experience in person the Sikh religion. Through Mark’s efforts, an unfortunate act turned into an educational, healing experience.

Other highlights from Mark’s tenure include a successful capital project, a 13 year plan, and the introduction of interest based or win-win negotiations to the various bargaining units.

Despite these tremendous accomplishments, a couple of major changes occurred that caused Mark not to seek re-election to the Board.

First, Mark and Mary decided to build their dream home on the shores of Lake Ontario on Grand View Avenue in 2004.

In 2005, Mark would leave his position with Oswego County for a position on the hill at Syracuse University. In 2015, he became Chief of Staff at ESF and currently serves as its Executive Operating Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer.

This brings us to this past school year when a vacancy occurred on the Board.

We asked Mark to fill in for this year because he had the past experience of service on the Board, daughter Danielle works for the District, two grandchildren attend MACS, and he was willing to fill in only for this year simplifying the election of a replacement candidate in May.

So how has Mark fared in his return to the Board table? For that, I refer to remarks from Superintendent Runner, who writes, “As Superintendent, I would like to express my deepest gratitude for Mark’s dedicated service to our school district. His thoughtful, supportive, and objective decisions have consistently reflected his ability to see all sides of an issue. He has always prioritized the best interests of our students and the district as a whole. Mark’s unwavering commitment and insightful contributions have played a significant role in shaping the direction of our educational programs. His legacy from both his previous and current service will continue to impact our community positively for many years to come.”

I could not have said it any better myself. I will add that, not only is Mark thoughtful, supportive, and objective, but he is one of the most genuine, sincerest people I know whose actions speak louder than words. I, for one, am grateful and thankful that he said yes to serve for this year.

So Mark, for following your interest in the environment and making the “leap of faith” to return to Oswego County and create the Oswego County Waste Management program, for leading MACS through the aftermath of the unfortunate Sikh Temple fire, for introducing interest based negotiations to our District, for sharing your skill set at ESF benefiting its many fine students, for saying yes to the Board’s invitation for a one year stint, for being thoughtful, supportive, and objective in your capacity as a Board member with the best interests of our students and District as your priority, but, most importantly, for recognizing your purpose of “giving back” at an early age and that a person (in this case, you) can make a difference, it is with sincere gratitude, that we, the Board, recognize you as our Proud to be MACS recipient for May 2024.