In 1970, Lonnie Palmer graduated from Union College in Schenectady, NY, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics and planned to continue on to a Ph.D. program but was interrupted by a notice from the U.S. Government – a draft notice. Knowing his low number would preempt plans to continue his education, Palmer took what he thought was a short term job teaching high school science — and a reluctant education reformer was born.
Within a year Palmer was drafted during the Vietnam War and spent two years as a Science Research Assistant calibrating radiation detection devices in the physics, health and safety office at the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland.
But the time Palmer spent teaching – the students he met – prompted him to take a position teaching at Spackenkill High School in 1973 when he was discharged from the US Army two years later. Over the course of seven years at Spackenkill, he taught physics, AP Physics, chemistry, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and pre-calculus. In 1980, he left to become principal of Averill Park High School.
To buy Lonnie Palmer’s new solutions-based book “Why We Failed: 40 Years of Education Reform, click here.
In 1993, Palmer became Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education in the City School District of New Rochelle, NY. An urban environment with a diverse population, New Rochelle was hot bed of reform. Using a Mellon Foundation Grant for educational innovation, Palmer implemented New York State Education Department approved variances on Regents exams that allowed teachers to substitute portions of 13 different exams with rubric-based research projects. One example: 20 percent of the Biology Regents Exam was a research project students completed with the aid of medical doctors from the Southern Westchester Medical Center.
In 1997, Albany City School District recruited Palmer to take over a district that had been run by the Albany political machine for decades. Palmer was hired by a majority reform board to move away from decades of patronage, nepotism and cronyism and move to a results-based school district.
In 2003 following his tenure in Albany, Palmer started a consulting business called AdvisorySolutions that analyzed and compared school district performance data with similar districts and established benchmarks for effective school spending and academic performance. It wasn’t long before he heard from another urban school district. Troy School District, in Troy, NY, was in dire straits and needed a leader to turn things around.
Within two years with Palmer at the helm, Troy schools were upgraded by Standard and Poor’s and both the middle and high school were removed from the State’s Schools In Need of Improvement (SINI) list.
Palmer was recruited again in 2013 to lead a rural school district with several outstanding labor contracts. Palmer settled three contracts in one year and helped implement the new Common Core standards. Part of the implementation effort included freeing up funds from places where they weren’t effectively improving the program and reinvesting those dollars in programs, curriculum and teachers.
One of the ways to find out how he did that is to read his new solutions-based book coming out in 2016 called “Why We Failed: 40 Years of Education Reform.”
While the Vietnam War put his formal education on hold, Palmer eventually obtained his Master’s in Physics Education and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration from the State University of New York at New Paltz.
To buy the solutions-based book “Why We Failed: 40 Years of Education Reform,” click here.
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