If you ask Mark Pearmain how his first few months at the Surrey school district is going, he says he “just can’t articulate how much I’m enjoying my time here.”
Pearmain, who was announced as the district’s new superintendent in November 2021, has been in the role for nearly three months now.
One of his most memorable moments with the district – so far – was attending a Vaisakhi celebration at Panorama Ridge Secondary school in April.
“That wasn’t necessarily an experience I’d had in North Vancouver and so walking into the building with the excitement level of the kids — I think it’s two years’ worth of excitement – it was pent up, so it was literally bubbling.
“But walking into the school and just seeing the pride of the culture and the excitement to show it to others.”
He said while it was “such a unique experience” for him, it was “something that obviously was going on all across Surrey. I had one little taste at Panorama but something that I think is going to be an opportunity with so many different cultures here in the district.”
Pearmain has come to the Surrey from the North Vancouver School District, more than 25 years of experience in leadership roles in public schools. He joined North Vancouver in 2014 as assistant superintendent and was appointed superintendent in 2016.
“I think, partly, I’ve done this job before, so I will admit that I’m drinking out of a firehose when it comes to the culture of Surrey, the people of Surrey, obviously the geographical space of Surrey, but the actual role itself is very, very similar from North Vancouver. So in that sense, I bring, frankly, a level of experience that has allowed me to feel I think quite comfortable here and be able to seamlessly move from Dr. (Jordan) Tinney’s leadership into my own.”
Tinney announced his retirement in October, after seven years in the role and nine years with the district. He continued in his role until spring break of this year when Pearmain took over.
“It’s been such a good move, in the context of just great people, great district,” explained Pearmain, who still lives in North Vancouver.
“There’s so much going on, there’s just so many inspiring events and opportunities for kids here that I just couldn’t be in a better place.”
Asked what it’s like moving to the Surrey school district from North Vancouver, Pearmain said, “It’s bigger. It’s a similar vibe, both districts are really focused on innovative practice for kids and providing unique opportunities. Obviously, the size and the scale of Surrey is different, but it also means that there’s just more opportunities to try different things.”
He added the demographics between districts are different, however.
“The Surrey school district reminds me of my time back in Vancouver where it was very diverse and lots of … quite the spectrum, from wealth to those that are suffering in poverty as well as new immigrants, refugees and everybody in between.
“That’s been a little bit different than North Vancouver.”
As for his long-term vision for the district, Pearmain said he wants to continue and support the work of being an innovative district.
“Kids need different things at different times and how do we support our kids to be successful. We’ve got a lot of work to do when it comes to the “Racing to Equity“ report and ensuring that our spaces are inclusive and safe for students, but also staff and community members and hearing those voices,” he noted.
“I’m excited for that work to continue and really ramp up over the next two, three, four, five years. It’s not a short-term fix. My hope, my vision if that’s what you want to ask, is to set up a foundation that will continue long past me, where it becomes the norm in terms of having those conversations and entering those difficult spaces.”