Survey results for superintendent search reviewed

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By Kacie Goode

The results of a community survey regarding the desired qualities of a district superintendent are similar to the desires expressed during a November public forum. The results were presented to the Nelson County School Board Tuesday night by Owens Saylor, a consultant with the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, a firm assisting the district in its search for Anthony Orr’s permanent successor.

Saylor provided the board an overview of the survey results and a ranking of what qualities were most important. A superintendent who demonstrated honesty and high morals topped the list, followed by a leader who is student centered, builds trust, has knowledge of instruction, brings people together, values input, has financial knowledge and is data driven.

Respondents could rank certain actions of the superintendent as important, very important or critical. Among the qualities that had the highest number of critical responses were a superintendent who is supportive and responsive to the concerns and needs of those who work in the district, who treats employees as colleagues who are mutually committed to the achievement of a common purpose, who listens carefully to determine the needs and values of others, who serves as a role model, who possesses excellent leadership skills, who maintains high standards of ethics, honesty and integrity in all personal and professional matters, and who works to ensure clean, safe and orderly schools.

The survey was opened to the public from Nov. 13 through Dec. 8 and was advertised in the newspaper, on the district’s website and social media. According to the results shared by Saylor, the survey was viewed 3,545 times and 477 people responded. Of those who responded, nearly half were students.

“When you look at the way the student responses lined up with everyone else, it’s clear that they took this survey to heart,” Saylor said. “They actually fell right in line with what other folks in your community are feeling about this search.”

District employees and teachers made up 27 percent of the respondents and parents and community members made up 26 percent. Additional info on survey results can be viewed online a www.kystandard.com.

In addition to going over the survey results and how they compared to the public forum, Saylor started the meeting by sharing research on effective superintendents and the board was provided documents from the American Association of School Administrators.

Before the meeting concluded, Saylor asked the board members for input on what they were looking for in the next superintendent, but the board agreed mostly with what the survey and forum had shown.

“To me, it’s not about what we want, it’s what they want,” Chair Diane Breeding commented.

Damon Jackey recognized that several members of the superintendent screening committee were in attendance, and addressed the group directly by asking them what they thought.

“Part of me feels like what we had before was like a manager, and a lot of that culture and leadership and taking care of students and taking care of staff was lacking,” said Suzanne Hite, a parent representative. “We have some healing to do. We need to build a culture, we need bring schools together, we need to raise expectations in all the schools. We need there to be competency and excitement and culture and energizing everyone across the district.”

Others talked about how change and growth, even with a new superintendent, would take time.

The board members did share a few additional thoughts. Diane Berry said she valued someone who worked on an equal playing field with staff and students, and someone who was comfortable in communicating with those in the district. Breeding said she was looking for a superintendent who would empower administration to make decisions. “You can’t bully to performance,” she said.

Jackey mentioned the importance of a superintendent who was innovative, referencing some comments that had been made at the public forum. Rebekah McGuire-Dye, who was participating in the meeting by mobile video, said it was important to have a superintendent who would accept personal responsibility for their actions and admit when they’re wrong. She also agreed with seeking someone who could be innovative.

David Norman, who resigned from the board last month but has attended meetings as a guest, also spoke up.

“I just want someone that doesn’t forget about New Haven School,” Norman said, as well as the students requiring special education.

Saylor said they plan to have the position posted by Jan. 2 and the work of the screening committee would begin Feb. 26. The plan is to have a new superintendent named by April 17. When asked about how in-depth the application for superintendent would be, Saylor said applications from other districts could be viewed at kasa.org, and said the application is detailed. He said direct contact for references are desired instead of just letters.

“It looks like what you would expect an executive level application process to look like,” he said.

The finalists, once presented to the board by the screening committee, would also be asked to respond to additional questions in writing.

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