Based on discussions at a Sept. 26 meeting with Ohio School Boards Association representative Richard Caster, Canal Winchester residents want the next school superintendent to be fiscally responsible, creative, able to make difficult decisions and able to work with diverse groups of employees and community members.
Caster, a senior school board services consultant with the OSBA, will take the information gathered from the meeting, along with data from other meetings he held Sept. 26 with school district staff members, parents and residents, to craft a "wish list" the Canal Winchester Board of Education can use in searching for a new superintendent.
Current Superintendent Kimberley Miller-Smith will retire at the end of the year.
The deadline for candidates to apply for the post is Oct. 4.
Caster said he and two superintendents in other districts will use the criteria gained from the focus groups as a checklist to narrow the field of candidates down to six or seven.
The board has scheduled the first round of interviews to start on Oct. 17. After the first interviews, Caster said he will ask the board to narrow the field to no more than four finalists.
During the Sept. 26 meeting attended by 18 local community members, Caster asked them to identify what they see as the significant issues facing the district in the next three to five years, what they expect the superintendent to do about them and what professional and personal characteristics they want a new superintendent to possess.
Residents said challenges facing the district include finances and school levies; keeping up with changes in technology; additional educational requirements mandated by the state; negotiating labor contracts and doing performance evaluations of employees; bullying and student safety; increases in the number of special-needs students in the district; and population growth that is making Canal Winchester a "diverse" community.
"Along with the changes in the population, it is important for that person (the new superintendent) to know how to communicate with everyone," said Bill Yaple, director of operations for Violet Township.
Because of anticipated growth in the community, attendees expressed concern that in the future, the school district also would be dealing with the need for additional space.
Canal Winchester City Council President Marilyn Rush-Ekelberry indicated she wants a superintendent who "does not lose the momentum" that Miller-Smith has gained in her six year tenure.
"We would like to see someone, I'm sure, that we would still have the ability to work with, because we are a city, but still a small city. We have always had a close relationship between the schools and the government of the city," Rush-Ekelberry said.
Others said a new superintendent needs to understand the dynamics of a very tight-knit community and should be "willing to fight for what is right for the kids and the real issues and not just the ones they think they can win."
In addition, participants said the ability to "think out of the box" and be creative in solving problems is important, as is being proactive and accessible to everyone, able to prioritize and make tough decisions and able to "talk to the kids about the programs that they think would make them successful."
In terms of professional and personal qualities in a superintendent, community members agreed that they want a person who possesses good communication skills, fiscal responsibility, and the ability to work with all levels of employees, the government, and members of the community.
They also are looking for an energetic leader, a "visionary" who is on top of the latest trends and technology and someone who is able to be a "front person for levy campaigns."
The audience had mixed reviews about whether a superintendent who has retired from a school district should be considered as a candidate, the level of education necessary for the job, and the applicants' work experience.
While some want a superintendent who has a doctorate degree and experience as a superintendent in a diverse school system, that was not a top priority for other members of the audience.
At the end of the meeting, Caster said he would be summarizing the "wish list" for the board of education.