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. He was lucky to be stationed stateside at the Army’s health and safety office at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, where he spent two years as a Science Research Assistant calibrating radiation detection devices.
But the Vietnam War interrupted his plans to become a physicist. By the time he was honorably discharged he had a family and needed a job so he took a position teaching at Spackenkill High School, where he taught physics, AP Physics, chemistry, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and pre-calculus. It was the beginning of a career that lasted four decades first as a teacher and later as a schools superintendent.
To buy Lonnie Palmer’s new solutions-based book “Why We Failed: 40 Years of Education Reform, click here.
After Spackenkill High School, Palmer spent 13 years as Principal of Averill Park High School before becoming 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, while he was Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education in New Rochelle, Palmer was recruited to take over the Albany City School District as Superintendent of Schools. Mr. 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, but 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 “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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