Desperately Seeking Super
LSR7 is in the middle of the process in finding our next superintendent. It is not an easy task, and to that end, Missouri has provided guidance in the form of a 100-page pdf with lots of other docs linked within. Given the hefty settlement price tags the district paid our last two Superintendents, it concerns all taxpayers to get this right this time. Not only are we paying a firm to find the right fit, but we must also consider how expensive it is to remove a superintendent as we have done with the last two men who held the position.
First - what do we want?
Second - how do we get it?
As with everything associated with education, we have standards and indicators provided by the government to help rural, urban, and suburban districts evaluate superintendents. Within the 100-page guidance document provided, there are a number of other documents referenced, like this one that provides for evaluation of a superintendent:
Given our recent struggles and the size of the district, it seems clear that we should be looking for a Distinguished Superintendent as described on page three in the above document. The standards listed on page one and two should be considered when evaluating potential candidates.
Using this criteria, consider whether we could have foreseen the issues associated with Dr. Carpenter, for example, before we offered him the position of Superintendent.
Positive culture: We certainly know now that he struggled with promoting a positive culture in the district. We did have information from Hickman Mills School District, where Dr. Carpenter had previously been the superintendent, which indicated that this would be a significant challenge for him.
Experience: We knew he did not have a lot of experience as a superintendent of schools as he had only been at Hickman Mills for a couple of years; and Hickman Mills (~6000 students) is a much smaller district compared to LSR7 (~18,000 students).
Programs: We had information that student achievement was not improved at Hickman Mills under Dr. Carpenter, though he did not stay in the district for very long. Further, we knew that Dr. Carpenter brought in some expensive professional development programming which was not only controversial but also ineffective at addressing the achievement gaps for which the programming was meant to resolve.
Fiscal liability: In addition to the aforementioned programming expense, we did know that Dr. Carpenter was involved in costly legal battles at Hickman Mills and at his previous employment in a Georgia school district.
Personal and professional responsibility: Dr. Carpenter's social media accounts were public, so we could and should have known about any inappropriate behavior ahead of hiring him as our superintendent.
It does seem clear that there were multiple red flags indicating that Dr. Carpenter was not the right fit for LSR7. Perhaps we should take these indicators more seriously moving forward. So, how do we find the right person for the job?
In August 2019, the BOE contracted McPherson & Jacobson firm to find the next superintendent. This firm is currently searching for school district superintendents in twelve states, though many are very small school districts. LSR7 is among the largest districts the firm represents (see slider below).
To maintain communication and transparency, the firm held five community meetings to obtain local feedback. Most residents were impressed with the firm and what was presented. In addition to those meetings, the district collected information from the community through a stakeholder survey provided in both English and Spanish.
The firm published the following brochure inviting candidates to apply which described the district and the larger metropolitan area.
According to the LSR7 website tracking our superintendent search process, milestones for this process include:
Application deadline 11/21/19.
Board interviews scheduled January 6-9.
Selection of new Superintendent January 23.
Start date July 1, 2020.
Applicant information cannot legally be provided to the public as they are considered personnel records. The names of the candidates will be released following the interview process, per LSR7 Central Office. This would allow for approximately two weeks for the public to become familiar with the candidates before the selection announcement on January 23rd.
Learning from the past few years, perhaps we should look for candidates who will:
Be willing to put constituents’ needs first. Listen to teachers, administrators, and community members. Teachers, especially, will tell you what’s broken and if given the opportunity, will provide insight how to remedy problems.
Base decisions upon what is truly in the best interest of students. Being a great superintendent requires selflessness, not resumé building.
Understand that providing transparency across the board garners trust. Communicate immediately with your stakeholders when problems arise. Ask those stakeholders to be a part of the solution.
Demonstrate long-range vision: 5,10,15, 20 years into the future. This vision provides stakeholders the opportunity to rally around the cause.
Be a great communicator. Communicate with authenticity. Understand your audience whether individual, small group, school or entire district. It is critical your stakeholders have all information they need to help you, the superintendent, make the district a success.
Remember, you work for the Board who represents the stakeholders.
Understand your job is to manage resources that support classrooms. In other words, do what is really best for students.
Be a positive example for kids. A clean social media footprint should be a prerequisite for any superintendent. Don't be the source of scandal.