School board settles on search criteria for new superintendent
Extending a deadline by three days to complete an online survey selecting 10 out of 33 characteristics desired in a new school superintendent paid off, with 486 surveys completed compared to less than 150 at the original deadline.
“That’s a tremendous result,” said Linda Brock, regional manager with Ray and Associates Inc.
Brock and another associate, Ned Sellers, met with all seven Fairfield Community School District Board of Directors Tuesday to finalize desired characteristics into wording for an advertisement seeking a superintendent to replace outgoing Art Sathoff.
Brock and Sellers provided spreadsheets categorizing survey respondents’ affiliation to the school district and how many votes each of the 33 characteristics received in each group and in total, to be able to rank and prioritize those characteristics.
The survey asked each survey respondent to identify with one of the following groups, and Ray and Associates shared how many were in each group:
• 99 teachers took the survey.
• 14 administrators.
• 37 support staff.
• 65 parents (of students in the school district).
• 250 secondary students.
• 11 non-parent community members.
• 3 other.
• 7 school board members.
“We selected the top eight to 10 vote-getting characteristics and want the board’s input on if you’d like to make any additions or deletions,” said Brock. “We combined two items into one characteristic because it elaborated on the same idea.”
Ray and Associates recommended the following be included in a flyer and online advertisements for a Fairfield superintendent, based on the survey results:
The Fairfield Community School District seeks a superintendent who:
• Possesses excellent people skills, presents a positive image of the district and will listen to input and make a decision when necessary.
• Possesses the leadership skills required to respond to the challenges within a rural school community.
• Inspires trust, has high levels of self-confidence and optimism, and models high standards of integrity and personal performance.
• Is a strong communicator; speaking, listening and writing.
• Demonstrates commitment to community visibility with high interest in a broad range of community groups and organizations.
• Is able to work cooperatively with the board and keeps members informed.
• Has knowledge of sound fiscal procedures and successful experience in management of district resources, including appropriate participation of others in planning and decision-making.
• Is strongly committed to a “student first” philosophy in all decisions.
• Is capable of developing both short and long range district goals.
• Is committed to the importance of both the academic and activity programs.
• Has demonstrated strong leadership skills in previous positions.
“The one about working with the school board and keeping members informed is usually not recommended to include in the package, because that’s like superintendent 101,” said Brock, a former Fort Madison schools superintendent. “Anyone applying for a superintendent’s job should already understand this.”
Board members agreed to delete it in the job promotional materials.
Board member Joe Carr, a retired Fairfield school principal, said he thought mention of academic leadership should be included.
“What I see missing from this profile is a true educational leader, someone with instructional leadership,” he said.
Brock said a question about team-building and academic leadership could be added to interview questions.
“Listening to students, we heard they want a superintendent who listens to students, is progressive about technology and of course, students always bring up food issues,” said Brock. “Other constituency groups told us they wanted a superintendent who lives in the district and has a high visibility here and is good at dealing with finances.”
Brock and Sellers met with various small stakeholder groups in the district March 31, similar to the breakdown of groups in the online survey.
“I think this profile has hit a lot of important areas that constituency groups stressed,” said Brock.
The advertisement is online at Ray and Associates website; the Teach Iowa website; the National Association of Schools; and one paid venue, American Association of School Administrators website and newsletter. The district will pay $385 for 30 days of advertising with AASA.
The application deadline is April 30.
Ray and Associates will review all applications, conduct background checks and contact references. Brock and Sellers will return to Fairfield May 9 to meet with the school board and finalize interview questions and procedures.
Semi-finalist candidate profiles will be presented to the board and the consultants will assist in selecting candidates for interviews.
The first round of semi-finalists’ candidate interviews in the district are scheduled for May 14-15. The top two or three candidates will have final interviews in the district May 20.
Sathoff’s last day in the Fairfield district is June 30. He has accepted the superintendent’s job at Indianola schools.