It was one of those formative events Mark Mullins, the Brevard Public School Superintendent, will never forget. In the early days of his term, the Superintendent at the time, Dr. Blackburn, called his leadership together and asked them, “What makes Brevard great?”
Mullins recalled, “Immediately, a hand went up in the crowd and one of the true matriarchs in the room, who had been a principal for I think something like 35 years, stood. She said, ‘You need to know one thing about Brevard. We put men on the moon here. That will drive what we do, we will rise above this current situation.’
“I’ve never forgotten that,” he said. “I suppose it has always motivated me. There is a culture of high expectations here and a perspective that together we can beat the odds, no matter how great the challenges are.”
The overarching and unchanging challenge, and the opportunity school systems have, is to mold and equip future generations who will shape our community, our nation and our world.
Mullins acknowledges that most teachers approach their career as a calling, which is how he has always viewed it.
It was working with young people in his church’s youth group, while finishing his associate degree at a community college in South Florida, that led him to consider teaching as a profession. Though his wife is from Melbourne Beach, it was more opportunity than intention that brought him to Brevard in 1994. With his newly minted degree in math education from FSU, Mullins and his wife who was then pregnant with the first of their three children, moved to the Space Coast.
“We’ve been in the community for 25 years. Early on, while teaching at Cocoa Beach High, I was drawn to the leadership side of education,” Mullins said. “My initial experience in administration was managing a sizeable federal grant covering mental health, counseling and social services, during Dr. DiPatri’s first year as superintendent.”
Mullins considers Richard DiPatri a mentor. He was a celebrated superintendent and the longest serving appointed superintendent in Florida history. DiPatri also tapped Mullins to be his student liaison, a role he continues today, meeting regularly with high school senior class presidents and even taking them with him on legislative trips to Tallahassee. “Their student voices helped seal the mental health funding we received and restrictions on underage vaping,” Mullins shared. “It is a privilege to help train them to use their very significant influence, in a respectful and responsible way.”
In his new role he has experienced firsthand the diversity that is representative of Brevard. “As a superintendent I have seen the affirmation of the really strong communities that make up our district. Each one has a unique identity, heritage and traditions, and all of them are engaged in making their schools and their communities the best they can be. I have coined a phrase that sums up my experience: ‘Brevard takes care of Brevard,’” he said.
Speaking of what guides his leadership and decisions, he was very clear. “We make student led decisions; they are our first priority. Since DiPatri’s administration our motto has been, ‘Serving all students with excellence.’”
“Secondly,” Mullins continued, “what are the right things to do for the people who interact with our kids every day? They are making the difference. Finally, we must ensure we are acknowledging and are accountable to all the citizens that make our schools possible.”
“Bottom line, I hope it will be said that Mullins helped all kids beat the odds.”