A series of focus-group meetings designed to help the Groveport Madison Board of Education choose the district's next superintendent produced "consistent themes," according to Kathy Lowery of K-12 Business Consulting.

Lowery presented the Groveport school board with an update April 11.

In March, the firm distributed a survey and hosted nine focus groups, speaking to district employees, parents, students and community stakeholders.

The complete superintendent search profile, available at https://tinyurl.com/ybanukfm, shows that an "ability and willingness to deal fairly with faculty, staff, students and parents" came in as the top priority for every focus group.

Nearly every respondent said the teachers and staff, the "small town" feel of the district and its diversity were among its strengths, Lowery said.

Many people said they hoped the district's next leader would have experience with diverse and impoverished populations.

Nearly 70 percent of the district's students are considered economically disadvantaged, according to the 2016-17 state report card.

"People really like the culture diversity here. They feel it really enriches the district," Lowery said. "They want someone who understands the demographics.

"A lot of people talked about educating the whole child; that the social and emotional needs are as important as the educational needs and they want someone who can put that together and understand that."

Focus-group participants said challenges facing the district include aging elementary and middle school buildings, maintaining fiscal responsibility and increasing communication.

Lowery said her firm is primarily recruiting current superintendents and assistant superintendents.

Candidates have until April 27 to submit applications.

"So far (the profile) hasn't frightened away anyone that we're recruiting," Lowery said.

The community wants to see the next superintendent have an "umbrella effect," bringing everyone together for the betterment of students, she said.

Officials expect to conduct interviews in the coming weeks, with a final decision being announced by May 30.

The new superintendent is expected to start on or before Aug. 1. The base salary range is between $140,000 and $169,000 annually.

In other business April 11, the board:

* Heard an update on construction of the district's new $53 million high school, being built adjacent to its existing building at 4475 S. Hamilton Road. The school is nearing completion and officials expect to receive an occupancy permit in early May. Demolition of the existing high school is slated to start in June, with the new facility opening to students in the fall.

* Approved a $276,000 contract with The Motz Group to install turf softball fields at the new high school.

* Approved a $110,000 contract with Darby Excavating for paving and resurfacing parking lots at Sedalia, Dunloe and Madison elementary schools and at Middle School South.

The next board of education meeting will be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 25, at district offices, 4400 Marketing Place.