If Lancaster School Superintendent Thomas J. Markle could play Santa Claus to his successor, he would leave that person a book.
A phone book -- with only a carefully chosen set of names and numbers.
"Sometimes when you're an administrator, it's hard to sort through who's really your friends -- who has an agenda, and who wants only for you to help the kids be successful," he said.
"I would leave a phone book of numbers of only people who would provide unbiased, honest information and advice that really is designed to benefit the kids in the system."
At least 10 names came immediately to mind, he said -- "a pretty amazing number."
Markle soon might be wishing for such a well-edited phone book for himself, as he takes over as superintendent of the Seaford School District on Long Island in January. After 3 1/2 years in Lancaster, Markle's last official day will be Dec. 31.
The Lancaster School Board on Monday unanimously accepted his resignation, waiving the 90-day notice required by his contract. Board members offered their thanks and well wishes.
Lorraine Bona noted that the district faced a huge staff turnover soon after he arrived, as many teachers retired. Markle, she said, deftly "put out the fires" and eased Lancaster through the transition.
He made his share of unpopular decisions during his tenure. The district last year streamlined its bus pickups, invoking the ire of many a parent who wanted his children picked up in front of his house. Markle stood his ground through countless appeals.
And the district has continued to grapple with a cost-conscious contingent of voters, along with a growing enrollment, as new houses spring up in the town. During Markle's tenure, the middle school and William Street School expanded. Fourth-graders moved from their neighborhood elementary schools to William Street, which now serves grades four to six.
Markle said he was most proud of the cohesion he brought to the instructional program, largely accomplished by the administrators he hired.
"I worked really hard to listen to people and work from the bottom up," he said. "I try very hard to be a collaborator."
Board President Kenneth Graber offered his thanks to the departing superintendent, as well.
"I've been very impressed with his knowledge, with his compassion. He fought for the kids. He fought for the district," Graber said. "We've been lucky to have him for the time we did."