The T/E school board has launched a search for a new superintendent and is seeking input from the public through an anonymous survey, “Stakeholder Survey – Superintendent Succession Planning”, available online through noon on Tuesday, June 10. Participants can weigh in on the qualifications and experiences that they think are most important in a superintendent as well as the strengths and needs in the district.
Public input is important throughout the superintendent process and this online survey allows stakeholders (District residents, parents, students and employees) to provide comments that are a valuable part of the search for the next superintendent. The answers should help guide the school board in the superintendent search to replace current TESD Superintendent Dr. Dan Waters, who will retire from the school district on June 30, 2015.
The following seven questions are on the survey, each with a pick list of responses.
- Please select the stakeholder group(s) that best describes you.
- Age Group
- Please select the top 5 traits you believe are most important for Tredyffrin/Easttown School District’s new Superintendent.
- Please select the top 5 strengths of the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District that the new Superintendent should be expected to maintain or enhance.
- Please select the top 5 qualifications which you believe are most important for Tredyffrin/Easttown School District’s new Superintendent.
- Please select the top 3 opportunities and challenges you believe our new Superintendent will face. Select at least 3 and no more than 3.
According to the District’s website, the survey results are to be made public. However, beyond making the survey public, will the results of the survey affect the Board’s selection process? The feedback reflects the unique needs of the community … how will the results be used by the Board.
Having the community, parents, school district employees and students involved in the superintendent search process provides support for the school board and will lead to a more favorable public perception and build trust. Sharing the survey results and the search progress in an open, transparent atmosphere makes us, the stakeholders, feel appreciated that we were consulted in the selection process and therefore, more inclined to getting the new superintendent off to a successful start. If the superintendent search is conducted behind closed doors, the new superintendent becomes promoted as the Board’s superintendent, not the community’s superintendent.
Some school board members believe that owing to their election by the community, that they have the right to make all decisions, start to finish, which effectively leaves the residents in the dark about the affairs of the school district. Taking that stance puts the District in a “no need to know” mode – which may lead the Board to conduct the superintendent search in secret or mostly behind closed doors. I have attended many school district committee and board meetings and often a prevailing attitude of “we know best” by some Board members and administrators exists.
Frequently attendance at T/E school district meetings is low unless there is an issue of personal concern to residents. Unfortunately, some Board members (certainly not all) equate minimal citizen participation at meetings as a stamp of approval for their governance; believing that the small group that regularly attends meetings (and is vocal) is not representative of the community. Regardless if five or five hundred people attend meetings, this community owns the schools and should be involved and kept fully informed regarding its investment.
Don’t get me wrong, I support the survey (and the inclusion of all stakeholders views in the process) but the survey results need to actually ‘count’ and not serve merely as window-dressing for the Board in the selection of the next superintendent. Most of the questions on the list are standard and the pick-list of responses to be expected. Some of the questions asked of survey participants appear to be designed to generate an intended result whereas one question ignores important issues facing the District. As an example, the #7 question completely overlooks significant concerns in the District, such as school safety concerns, drug and alcohol usage by students and low morale of employees — just some examples of important challenges facing the future superintendent.
Please take the time to fill out the District survey on the superintendent search. The final decision on the superintendent choice is ultimately up to the school board but the community’s involvement in the process is critical.