Supt. Search: Take Two

School Board Met with Delegation of School District Staff
A gap in communication between the Willow Springs R-IV staff and the school board has been bridged following last Wednesday’s meeting. In a special session called by the school board, a delegation representing teachers and support staff from across the school district met in the school district board room. Representing the staff members were Officer Glenn Moore, Chris Cochran, Erin Brower, Amber Lewis, Julie Lovelace, Misty Pitts, Kathy Picard, and Megan Wilson.
The school board called this additional special session following their December 21 planning session. In the wake of a December 13 public forum intended to gather public and employee comments on the search for a new superintendent, the school board became aware that the initial forum did not provide sufficient time or opportunity for teachers and staff to give their opinion. The January 5 special session was intended for the district employees to weigh in more fully and completely with actionable suggestions on the superintendent search. 
The staff delegation presented a four-page document to the board as an overview of their preferences and needs for a superintendent. The overall focus of their message was the desire to preserve and further the “family” culture and atmosphere among the district employees.
Calling the choice of new superintendent “the most important decision that will be made this year,” Chris Cochran went through the document section by section with the school board. 
Sections included:
*Community Integration
“Considering the amazing and special place Willow is, let’s keep local values at the front of the selection process,” said Cochran.
*Staff Culture and Climate
“A superintendent should temper their decision making with the ability to trust and seek input from those with the most intimate knowledge of the problem. This atmosphere leads to a belief that educators and support staff are having a positive impact,” reads the teacher’s statement. 
*Staff Recruiting, Retention, and Morale
The staff members suggested asking candidates, “What methods would you use to recruit and retain quality educators?”
*Integrity, Compassion, and Trust
“How important is character and integrity of the superintendent, not only at school functions, but in their personal life as well?” was a suggested question.
*Leadership and Conflict Resolution
“...in a healthy educational system, leaders must recognize that they are leaders of people. Educators must recognize that they are investing in students, colleagues, and dependent upon position, subordinates as well,” reads the staff’s document.
*Maintenance and Janitorial
District employees were anxious to include the support and maintenance staff in the comments for the superintendent search. They pointed out the initial public forum was held too early for maintenance workers to attend. 
*Pedagogic Specifics
The document also covered meeting the needs of a diverse student body, supporting extracurriculars, finding, and using data for administrative decision making. 
 
Dialogue ensued between members of the school board and the delegation of staff members. Both groups agreed that the nature of the communication problems the staff members expressed was larger than the superintendent search. 
“If we’re suggesting that the staff doesn’t feel heard, that the board isn’t approachable, it is not so much about the superintendent search,” said school board member Dean Aye, “It’s a big ask for one guy. I don’t think we can hire our way out of the problem we’re hearing. Maybe the search is a vehicle to air these concerns.”
Officer Moore, the school resource officer, agreed saying, “The document applies more broadly than the superintendent search.”
In an interview after the meeting, Officer Moore expanded, saying the dialogue at the meeting “bridged the communication barrier in constructive ways.”
After the delegation left the meeting, the school board continued their discussion among themselves about their plan to interview superintendent candidates and what they gleaned from the staff delegation. 
The newly hired superintendent will assume his or her duties on July 1, and with the guidance of the MSBA, the school board will begin their review of resumes this month.
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