Longtime Fort Wayne Community Schools board member Mark GiaQuinta – who served as president for nearly a decade – announced his resignation Tuesday, effective April 1.
"You really need to know when it’s time to leave," he said, explaining leaders sometimes must step away so others can grow. "… This feels like the right time for me."
GiaQuinta, 63, was elected to the school board in November 2006. He served as vice president his first year in office and presided as president from 2008 until last month, when Julie Hollingsworth took the helm.
He described it as an emotional decision, calling it the most fulfilling public service he has performed.
"It is no exaggeration to say I’ve put thousands of hours into this job," GiaQuinta said Tuesday by phone. "Frankly, I think I took it more seriously than I did my City Council tenure, and I took that very seriously."
Steve Corona – the only board member with a tenure longer than GiaQuinta’s – said his colleague is an "ardent champion" of public education and will be sorely missed.
"He’s been such an influential figure over the district," Corona said.
Under GiaQuinta’s leadership, FWCS passed two building referendums, supported both student achievement and teachers, and made "some really tough decisions" – including closing Elmhurst High School and outsourcing custodial services – that other school boards would have caved on, Corona said.
FWCS owes part of its success to its stable leadership, which includes GiaQuinta, Hollingsworth said.
GiaQuinta taught her what it means to ask the right questions, to think politically and to understand the board’s role, she said.
"I think he really taught me what it means to be a board member," Hollingsworth said.
Board member Glenna Jehl said his resignation was unexpected. He and FWCS Superintendent Wendy Robinson have worked well together, she said, and FWCS is better off for his strong leadership.
GiaQuinta said he is proud of reshaping the nature of board governance. He worked with the board and Robinson in establishing the proper roles for the governing board and the management team, he said, explaining the board has allowed the management team to manage.
Of the timing of his resignation, GiaQuinta said he felt obligated to help the board through Robinson’s latest contract, which was approved in December.
That done, he began the process of finding the board leadership to take his place, he said. He said he is very comfortable that Hollingsworth and other board members are ready to take over.
His term ends in 2018.
The board will have 30 days after his resignation to fill the vacancy. GiaQuinta said he selected April 1 as his effective date so the board can have more time for the selection process.
Hollingsworth said the board will take applications for the at large position.
GiaQuinta said he will remain a "phone call away" from FWCS, should his help be needed after April 1.
Asked whether he plans to run for state representative, GiaQuinta said he intends to "see where I best fit the opportunities that exist." But, he said, he wouldn’t eliminate it as a possibility because it would give him an opportunity to advocate for education.