Emails have gone out to parts of the community marking the passing of former WSSD superintendent Lisa Palmer. I haven’t seen any public posts about it to this point, but I have seen an email to WSSD staff noting it.
Lisa Palmer was appointed as superintendent of the district in the middle of the 2016 school year after serving as the business administrator for the district for five years. Before that she had been the assistant superintendent in the Cherry Hill School District in New Jersey and assistant to the superintendent for finance and management in Radnor. She held a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania.
At the time of her appointment, board president Richard Sonntag said,
“We are thrilled that Dr. Palmer emerged as the top candidate in a competitive search process that drew highly qualified applicants from all over the eastern United States. The Wallingford-Swarthmore School District is very fortunate to have such a strong team in place, which enabled us to take this opportunity to promote from within. With the support of our entire school community, the Board of School Directors looks forward to working with Dr. Palmer and our outstanding faculty and staff to maintain and enhance our standing as one of the premier school districts in all of Pennsylvania.”
Lisa Palmer’s tenure as superintendent was a tumultuous one. The district lost long-time music director Jack Hontz in 2017 but the district’s music program has continued to thrive. In 2019 a student died of suicide. In response, the Hope for Hallie organization was formed in the community. The district also had to deal with a series of racist incidents, including one in 2020 that made the DelCo Times. After a series of challenging years, the pandemic hit adding further difficulties as the district was left to make its own decisions with minimal guidance from state and federal officials. The county’s property re-assessment also hit during the pandemic. In 2021, Lisa Palmer had health setbacks and announced her retirement in February – almost exactly 5 years from her appointment – giving the district time to search for a new superintendent starting at the end of the 2020-21 school year.
Through these difficulties, the district started a sleep/start time study, a process which is still continuing. As she headed to retirement, and in the midst of a pandemic, Lisa Palmer oversaw a meticulous review of the district’s policies with the goal of matching policy to current practice for the new superintendent. As I noted in a recent article, her tenure saw students move from SRS to WES in a way that left most parents happy (a rare feat in education). At her retirement, both board president David Grande and Ferg Abbott noted her work ethic. She was always there early and late, often the last car in the parking lot. No one could question her commitment to the district’s children.
If I see anything official, I’ll update this post.
Update (5 Aug) – WSSD has emailed out the following letter. The linked letter contains no information not in this short email as far as I can determine.