Lonnie Palmer went from the U.S. Armed Services to teaching at Spackenkill High School in Poughkeepsie to Averill Park High School in a suburb of Albany, NY, and then to New Rochelle, NY, in 1993, where he was Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education in the City School District of New Rochelle, NY. An urban environment with a diverse population, New Rochelle was a 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 Sound Shore 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.
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