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Upper Arlington schools

'Leadership profile' will guide choice of superintendent

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The company hired to help find the Upper Arlington school district's next superintendent plans to use focus groups, community meetings and interviews with board members to produce a "leadership profile" for the board to use when considering candidates for the job.

Don Thompson of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates told the school board during a special session on Monday, Sept. 24, that the profile will be presented Nov. 12.

School board members discussed the search process with Thompson, Dan Raisch and Alan Leis from the search firm. Thompson and Raisch were present at the meeting, while Lais participated by speakerphone.

The board agreed Aug. 13 to pay the search firm $17,000 plus expenses to conduct the superintendent search. Current Superintendent Jeff Weaver will retire in July 2013.

Thompson outlined the search process for board members and discussed a timeline.

"You are in a good position because you are starting your search early," he said. "That means you'll have the pick of the litter."

He said the planning process should take three to four weeks.

"We will want to conduct interviews of each school board member and meet with focus groups to get information from district stakeholders," he said.

Thompson said the firm would like to conduct the school board interviews and focus group meetings Oct. 4, 10 and 11.

"We would have a set of prepared questions to ask the focus groups to identify the strengths and challenges of the school district and what skill sets the new superintendent should have," he said. "We would spend 50 minutes to an hour with each group over two days and at the end of one of the days, you could have a community forum in the evening, where we could get some feedback from the community."

Board members discussed which groups the firm would speak to, including teachers, administrators, parent booster groups and community members.

"I'd like to see a group of people who want to be involved in the search but may not know how to get involved, such as parents new to the district," board member Stacey Royer said.

"It might be interesting to pull together a group from the city offices, such as the city manager and other city staff," board member Marjory Pizzuti said.

Board President Robin Comfort said she would like to include former school board members.

Thompson said people tend to give more feedback if they are in a smaller focus group instead of a large public forum.

He said the firm also would post an online survey on the district website to reach people who may not be able to attend a focus group or public forum. He asked board members to pick six groups to target for the online survey. They agreed to target administrators, community members, parents with children, support staff, teachers and students.

"I can tell you that it has always been interesting when we have conducted online surveys with students," Thompson said. "Kids have a finger on the pulse of the school district."

Raisch said the recruitment phase of the search would begin after the leadership profile is completed, with the firm placing advertisements in publications such as Education Week, which would mean extra expenses of about $1,800-$2,000 for a large ad and in a couple of other publications for about $750 each.

He said the firm would advertise the position during January.

"We would then go through all the applications in February and invite about 15 people to interview with us," he said. "We would narrow the applicants down to five or so candidates to recommend to the school board."

At the board's request, applications for five to seven candidates will be given to members by Feb. 11.

Thompson said initial interviews of the recommended applicants could begin Feb. 20-23, to identify semifinalists, then semifinalist interviews would take place March 6, 7 and 8.

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