Guest Commentary: Ruehlig on Superintendent selection process

The jury has spoken. For two productive days, Leadership Associates, our superintendent search team, gathered public input at meetings targeted for parents, teachers, classified employees, business and city leaders, civic groups and the public at large. They also took feedback via phone, email and an on-line survey.

The input will be used to modify the profile framed in our advertisement.

The emerging themes were headed by the prevailing community desire that we find an educator with a passion for public schools. Some made the valid point, though, that proven leaders, from commerce or elsewhere, should not be excluded. Speaking for myself, I concur that our consideration should be as inclusive as possible.

Many echoed a belief that the appointee considers living in the district and certainly demonstrates a commitment to the values and culture of the community. As to be expected, honesty and integrity were greatly valued.

The need for high energy vision, innovation and the ability to communicate well and to inspire a team to reach for the extraordinary all scored high. Our citizens want a change agent but also a consensus maker who brings the community together and honors the good work already being done in the District, be it Linked Learning Pathways, the African American Male Initiative, Parents Connected, Positive Behavior Intervention Systems, the Math Initiative, etc.

Several community members echoed the importance of a Superintendent refusing to accept the status quo, especially when it comes to the achievement gap. Others affirmed the belief that zip code should not determine student success.

Another recurring theme on the wish list was the habit of calling things for what they were, albeit the good, the bad and the ugly. People want straight talk and not platitudes, nor lame excuses.

The community knows that we face huge challenges, what with so many broken homes, latch-key kids, transiency, growing societal permissiveness, and the demands of a mushrooming English language learner population; yet they want accountability and a frank acknowledgement of what is working and not working.

The biggest task a Board ever has is before it: Superintendent selection. The Board will look within our District as well as outside so as to make sure that we don’t overlook the best possible fit. To not look everywhere would be to ignore our fiduciary responsibility to conduct a comprehensive and competitive search. Our sole intention is to hire the best possible candidate, whether that person is from inside or outside the District.

On April 27th the Board will see the results of the recruitment process and reference checking and look at files to decide which ones we would like to ask for an interview. This year offers a bevy of nearby districts looking to fill Superintendent slots but we’re still hoping we have a nice array. Our goal is finding a leader to make us a destination point, because people move to a city for two reasons, safety and schools.

We need a Superintendent that knows the way, shows the way, and, boldly, goes the way.  That takes the kind of courage articulated by Thomas Aquinas, who wrote “If the highest aim of a Captain were to preserve a ship we would keep it in port.”

Walter Ruehlig

Vice President, A.U.S.D. Board of Trustees

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