Community members give input in superintendent search
Integrity. Transparency. A clear vision for the future.
These are the characteristics that a handful of parents, students and staff members in USD 204 discussed as ideal characteristics in a new superintendent at the community forum the district offered last week. While only about 20 community members attended the Dec. 12 meeting, they came up with a list of district wants and needs that was similar to what others in the community had shared, according to John Heim, executive director of the Kansas Association of School Boards, who led the meeting and is leading the district through its superintendent search.
Heim explained that the district will accept applications through Jan. 31, and the applications will be screened an narrowed down to three to five names and one alternate. The school board will determine how the interview process moves forward, he said, but he estimated that the district should have selected its new superintendent by the end of February at the latest.
Heim said the KASB already had met with the chamber of commerce, NAACP, and district staff members to identify desired characteristics. Heim asked these groups and those at the forum for responses to the same four questions about qualities they would like the new superintendent to have as well as information about the community a new superintendent should understand.
Heim first asked those at the forum to list personal and leadership qualities a new superintendent should possess. Responses included having high behavioral and academic expectations for students and teachers, begin accountable, transparent and approachable, building a cohesive culture within the district and having compassion for students with special needs.
Heim also asked what strengths the school district had that a new superintendent needed to understand and support. Responses included that the community was friendly, family-centered and supported education, the exceptional diversity it possesses for such a small community, and that while there were deep roots in the community, it was open to changes.
Those at the forum also were asked to identify the most critical needs that a new superintendent needs to know to keep the district moving forward, and responses reflected some of the problems that may have lead to the search for a new superintendent.
For example, Chris Wood, longtime high school English teacher, said a new superintendent should understand there was an atmosphere of fear and distrust in the district.
Other responses were that the district was fractured, causing building competitions instead of collaboration, and there were gross inequalities of instructional resources across the district.
Those at the forum also asked that the district’s new leader have higher academic expectations, embrace technology and innovation and create a strong transition from No Child Left Behind requirements to the new Common Core Standards.
The final question was to identify single characteristics or qualities that will separate the best candidate from other highly-qualified candidates. Responses included a clear vision for the future of the district, honesty and proven leadership.
Throughout the question/response period, parents from Delaware Ridge Elementary asked that the new superintendent value and understand the Expeditionary Learning program the district adopted several years ago.
The next step will be to gather all of the qualities community members listed and determine which were the most common and important. Those who didn’t attend the forum and would like to share their thoughts may still contact school board members, Heim said.
He said the school board hasn’t determined if it will make public the final list of desired qualities for a new superintendent.