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Super Search: District Begins Search for New Superintendent

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Blane McCann has served as the superintendent of Westside Community Schools since 2012, but, on May 8, he announced his intention to retire at the end of the 2018-2019 school year. The Board of Education is currently undertaking the search for a new superintendent.

At the head of the search are board members Dana Blakely, Adam Yale and Doug Krenzer. The search process will be lengthy, according to Board President Blakely.

“The board is extremely grateful to [McCann] for giving us the amount of notice that he gave us,” Blakely said. “I think that we’re going to be out ahead of anybody else who will be looking for superintendents this year, just because he gave us such a good amount of lead time to figure out who his replacement is going to be.”

The first step the school board took was the decision to hire a search firm. This will cost the district an estimated $20,300, but will provide experience and help spread information, according to Blakely.

“The board decided that given the fact that no one was on this board at the time that the last superintendent was selected, that we would feel better having the guidance of a search firm,” Blakely said. “We’re making an investment in the district, so we felt like that was a good investment to make.”

Before hiring a firm, the district sent out a request for qualifications (RFQ). They then received firm applications and narrowed it down to two finalists, that each sent representatives in for an interview. The board eventually chose the firm Ray and Associates. According to their website, Ray and Associates’ mission is to “provide our clients with the highest quality services to assist them in hiring leaders who will meet district specific needs and positively impact the education of all students.”

The board said they chose Ray and Associates for multiple reasons, but one of them was their connection to the district.

“We just felt like [Ray and Associates] really understood Westside, the school district, who we are and who might want to come work for us and why they would be excited about it,” Blakely said. “We [thought] they had a really good grasp of background information of our district.”

After being selected on Aug. 27, Ray and Associates met with the Board of Education to discuss district priorities for the search. Once the formal job application is posted, the firm will put together a brochure to recruit applicants. It will contain information collected from public input sessions and meetings with the board. The brochure will be sent out across the country and candidates will apply through Ray and Associates, who will then bring the candidates’ information back to the board. The board will make the final decision on who the new superintendent will be.

Ray and Associates is not the only group involved in the search. The school board members said they hold the opinions of the community in the highest regard. In order to take the community’s opinions into account, the school board has created a survey which is posted on the district’s website. The survey includes 33 different characteristics that participants are asked to rate, choosing the ten that are most important to them. There is also a comments section where survey takers can put any thoughts or recommendations for the search. The characteristics are widely varied, according to Brandi Paul, director of communications and engagement for the district.

“What’s most important to you?” Paul said. “Does your superintendent have to have been a former teacher? Do they have to have a proven track record of working with community businesses? Do they have to have a Ph.D. or a master’s degree? So many different things, but we want our community to really rate those things.”

In addition to the survey, the board members said they hope to get community opinions through creating groups of various community members to give their input on what qualities the superintendent should have. These groups will include stakeholders in the district, parents, students, teachers, administration and other staff members. These groups will help the school board identify important qualities for the new superintendent. The school board will decide who is in each of these groups, so community members can’t apply to get in.

“We want to make sure we get a great representation from all parts of our district [and] all levels of our district,” Paul said. “Whether it’s one of our empty nesters … or a staff member or a parent of a current student, we want to make sure we get a really good representation.”

Both Paul and Blakely stressed the importance of community involvement in the search. According to Paul, the district wants students as well as parents and staff to give their opinions because they will be directly affected by the new hire.

“It is extremely important to our Board of Education, and I think to all of us at the ABC building and administration, we want our students to play a role in this,” Paul said. “You guys are smart, you’re bright, you are invested in our school district.”

Students can take the survey using the link https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HTCVYVJ. While the board won’t know the main characteristics they will look for in a new superintendent until more community input is received, Blakely said they are focusing on fiscal responsibility and a level of caring about the district.

“We want somebody who is unafraid to put students first in their decision making and to think about what’s best for students,” Blakely said.

 

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