Upper Arlington News

Survey: Superintendent should be team-builder, skilled communicator

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The Upper Arlington Board of Education learned Nov. 12 what characteristics residents want to see in the next superintendent.

The information emerged from a series of focus group meetings and other interviews conducted by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA), the firm hired to conduct a search for someone to replace Superintendent Jeff Weaver, who will retire at the end of July 2013.

HYA associates Don Thompson and Dan Raisch gave a presentation about the information to the board at its meeting Monday, with another HYA representative, Alan Leis, joining the discussion by phone.

The interviews showed UA residents prefer a superintendent who has experience as a teacher, principal and superintendent in "high-performing settings." They also want someone who has earned a doctorate from an accredited institution.

In addition, residents want a superintendent who can:

* Expand the impact of technology on learning and teaching.

* Foster positive community engagement.

* Lead in a collaborative, team-focused manner that fosters a climate of trust.

* Provide appropriate oversight to ensure the effective and efficient use of fiscal resources.

* Listen to and effectively represent the interests and concerns of students, staff, parents and community members.

Thompson said the preferred candidate, according to focus group members, would be "approachable; a skilled communicator and listener; a team-builder; a visionary; collaborative yet decisive; personable and visible in the schools and community."

He said HYA is getting ready to place an advertisement for the superintendent position in Education Weekly magazine; the ad will highlight the desired characteristics of the next superintendent, he said.

According to Thompson, 472 people participated in an online survey about the superintendent position and HYA representatives also interviewed 109 people by focus group or personal interview.

"We had an informative time with your citizens," he said. "It is evident they really think a lot about your UA schools. We found an engaged community that is not shy."

District strengths listed in the report include a high level of parental involvement, plus dedicated teachers, administrators and support staff. In addition, those interviewed said they like the fact that graduates often return to live in Upper Arlington; that the district has a state and national reputation for being "cutting edge" and that the community is committed to academic excellence.

The focus groups also revealed several challenges residents see facing UA schools. Among them:

* The district may have 'too many initiatives" under way for the instructional staff to handle successfully.

* Aging school buildings.

* The loss of key administrators and a significant number of teachers at the same time.

* The need to implement a new teacher evaluation system.

* The need to find ways to garner community support when additional funding is required.

Board member Nancy Drees suggested HYA change the wording in its proposed advertisement, which stated the school district is "adjacent to Columbus, Ohio."

"I would say the district is adjacent to the Ohio State University instead of to Columbus," she said.

Other board members agreed and Thompson said the firm would make the change.

"We are ahead of schedule with the advertisement, but we have people on our heels and want to start recruiting in earnest by tomorrow," he said.

The board approved a contract on Aug. 13 to pay the search firm $17,000 plus expenses to conduct the superintendent search.

Thompson said applications for the position will be accepted through the end of January 2013.

pwillis@thisweeknews.com

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