Members of one community group who attended a Feb. 2 series of focus groups to help find Reynoldsburg's next school superintendent went prepared with their own wish list.
Julie Hartman, from the group Raider Strong We Care, said the wish list outlines what members would like to see in a new superintendent.
First on the list: Someone who supports "child advocacy" and understands the responsibility "to educate the whole child."
They also want someone who will live in Reynoldsburg, who has strong interpersonal skills, is empathetic and compassionate, who respects, listens to and responds to constituents' concerns and ideas, who "celebrates and commiserates with constituents," who will hold open office hours, initiate and respond to requests for meetings and who "admits incorrect decisions and actions and makes amends."
The wish list put together by Raider Strong members, including parents Louis Salvati, Margaret Mary Luzny, Malaysia Pollard, Susan Riedlinger, Christine and Jim Smith and Beth Thompson, reflects many of the complaints the group voiced during a contentious two-week teachers strike in 2014 that marked the beginning of Tina Thomas-Manning's term as superintendent of schools.
Whether those characteristics make it onto a final list of desired attributes to come out of the focus groups led by the consulting firm Finding Leaders remains to be seen, but Hartman and Reynoldsburg Board of Education member Debbie Dunlap said they were pleased with the 10 focus-group sessions led by Finding Leaders representatives Ed Vittardi and Jim Harbuck on Feb. 2.
"They did a very thorough job of getting input from everyone -- our bus drivers, teachers, classified staff, administration, central office staff, community leaders, business leaders, parents and community members," Dunlap said.
Hartman said Vittardi asked excellent questions during the parent focus group she attended, including, "What's good about our district -- what makes it unique and what are its hot buttons?"
"He had an excellent sense of what the group was saying," she said.
She said the "hot buttons" included student testing, the high school academy systems, lack of continuity and consistency between buildings and programs and a lack of a vision/strategic plan.
"He assured us there are excellent candidates out there who are up to the challenge of leading our district," Hartman said. "This was a very satisfying and open discussion. I felt our ideas and concerns were actually being heard and will result in many positive changes for our district."
Thomas-Manning's contract does not expire until July 31, but the school board voted last September not to renew it.
Finding Leaders was hired in December 2016 at a base cost of $10,700. The firm will seek out 15 to 30 candidates, then present five to seven of the best to the board.
Dunlap said she did not sit in on any of the sessions herself, because she hoped for "honest and unfiltered responses" from those who participated.
"This is an amazing process to watch unfold," she said. "Finding Leaders is very meticulous in its process of gathering input from all of our stakeholders.
"I feel that a strong school district not only enjoys healthy partnerships among its own district staff, but strong partnerships with community and civic leaders as well," she said.
Board President Joe Begeny said the board should have candidates to interview by the end of March. It then will hold a public forum where the final candidates will answer questions from the public. He has said he hopes a superintendent will be hired by May 1.
Meanwhile, he said, people should email school board members with traits they want to see in a new superintendent. Email addresses for board members are available at www.reyn.org/members.aspx.