Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Superintendent Search underway in T/E School District – Residents invited to assist in finding replacement

Next SuperThe 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.

  1. Please select the stakeholder group(s) that best describes you.
  2. Gender
  3. Age Group
  4. Please select the top 5 traits you believe are most important for Tredyffrin/Easttown School District’s new Superintendent.
  5. Please select the top 5 strengths of the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District that the new Superintendent should be expected to maintain or enhance.
  6. Please select the top 5 qualifications which you believe are most important for Tredyffrin/Easttown School District’s new Superintendent.
  7. 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.

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    1. $311K with 30 years experience. Made $125 20 years ago. Do yourself a favor and research other contracts. This is and will be market driven. People don’t line up for these jobs because they want a new job. They line up for them as a “better” job, and the qualifications (certifications required by the state) limits the applicant pool significantly.

      1. how long has waters had this job?

        what are superintendents making in Radnor, LM, GV, Unionville and Havertown?


        1. Public information. You only need to ask. The contracts are VERY elusive however, and you need to understand them to get them clearly. I posted something several years ago on the issues of superintendents in the area…it’s out of date but is possibly helpful in clarifying the complexity of hiring a Superintendent.
          I believe Dr. Waters will have been superintendent for 20 years when he retires, but my records, again, are woefully old. The blog post I reference tries to highlight where new superintendents often come from. … I didn’t include numbers very often because, in fact, contracts are quite clever in having a base salary and then lots of other “contributions” and post-retirement benefits etc.

  1. An anonymous survey should count as much as the quality of the responses. When Dr. Foot was hired, there was a thorough involvement of the community. People only tend to comment when they have deep concerns. And whether or not low attendance is a “stamp of approval”, this is a process where you elect people to make decisions. Apathy does not mean people approve, but if they don’t care, their influence should rightly be minimal. It’s like the applications to college — personal recommendations count, but really only if they are bad ones.

  2. I’m pleased that the district has taken the time to run this survey and I think that the results will provide a telling window into the community’s interest in the district. For a start, how many of each stakeholder group, gender and age responded? What were the key differences by stakeholder group in the rankings for each question?

    Am I the only person confused by Question 5? We are asked for “the top 5 strengths of the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District that the new Superintendent should be expected to maintain or enhance”. Are ALL the listed attributes thought of as “strengths”? Personnel management? Business partnerships? Career preparation? Physical facilities? And the Superintendent should probably focus at least as much on the weaknesses as the strengths?

    So the question looks to me like a conflation of “what are the strengths of the district?” and “where should the Superintendent focus?”. I thought that the latter was more helpful, so I answered that.

  3. There was a lot of scrutiny on this blog when it became apparent that Richard Gusick was going to be interviewed as a prospective candidate for the job of Superintendent. On June 27, the district distributed an update on the process. For those who don’t get the email, or who get more information here, please consider the following:

    “School Board Provides Update on Superintendent Selection Process
    The Tredyffrin/Easttown School Board is continuing its selection process to identify a new superintendent. Current Superintendent, Dr. Daniel Waters, announced in October 2013 that he will retire on June 30, 2015. The TESD Board of School Directors has developed a plan to identify a new superintendent under the leadership of the Superintendent Appointment Committee chair and Board vice-president Kris Graham.

    The Superintendent Appointment Committee organized two full Board workshops in early May. Dr. Marie Slobojan and Mr. Robin McConnell led the sessions and shared the history of former TESD superintendents, former boards’ selection processes, and leadership styles and outcomes of these past superintendents. During these workshops, the Board considered current issues such as ACT 1, spiraling special education and retirement costs, and other governance mandates that will impact a future superintendent. The workshops served as a platform for the Board’s current superintendent selection plan.

    The first two phases of the plan are now complete and included a community-wide survey and stakeholder focus groups. In developing the community survey, the Board identified competencies and attributes that TESD will look for in its new superintendent. The community survey was launched and a postcard was sent via U.S. mail encouraging community input to all 13,600 residential taxpayers. Paper copies of the survey were available in all of the schools, local libraries, and at the Surrey Services for Seniors building in Berwyn. The survey was active from May 19, 2014 through June 10, 2014. Survey results were reviewed at the June 16, 2014 Board meeting, on the District TV station, and the District website, The District received over 1,000 stakeholder responses over the 3 week survey period. 29% of the responses came from families with children in our schools and 23% from residents with no children attending T/E schools. 21% of the survey represented student responses. The survey results confirmed the competencies and attributes identified by the Board and provided confidence that stakeholders are well informed of the issues facing TESD and a future superintendent.

    Phase two of the selection plan followed the close of the community survey and included community stakeholder focus groups led by administrators from the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU).

    During this process, the Board recognized that there are five TESD administrators who currently hold a PA superintendent certificate. Out of these five administrators, only one expressed interest in the superintendent position. After identifying a highly qualified internal candidate, the Board vetted the candidate. The Board moved forward and gathered teacher, staff, and administrator input prior to the close of the 2013-2014 school year. As an independent entity, the CCIU conducted interviews on Friday, June 20, 2014 with administrators, past board members, support staff, and two community and teacher groups. The CCIU collated and reported to the Board these perspectives on Monday, June 23, 2014 in a special executive session. This third phase of the superintendent selection plan, vetting the internal candidate, also closed on June 23, 2014.

    The next phase of the process will identify potential external candidates. The screening will be consistent with the one conducted for our internal candidate who remains a viable candidate. The District will arrange external site visits for external candidates who meet the Board’s criteria. Additional information regarding the superintendent job posting will be available on the T/E School District web site beginning July 1, 2014. The Board will continue to seek stakeholder input throughout the process.

    The Board recognizes that the appointment of a new superintendent is the single most important decision a school board will make and all nine TESD Board members continue to be actively engaged in the process. The Board’s goal is to make a selection in the fall of 2014.”

    As I said earlier, the interview with Richard Gusick SHOULD set the bar. There was a consensus reflected in the comments that it was an inside job. For me, that would have been okay too — as he is NOT a soldier and is highly qualified. But regardless, seeing that Dr. Slobojan is part of the strategic analysis for this search and that the board is getting input from other sources (some references to the CCIU were made on this blog — turns out they are involved), I only hope that the constituents and residents of our community (and in particular, the blog contributors here) RESPECT the process, and that the commentary doesn’t disintegrate into pot-shots at the steps and ultimately at the outcome. (Think Security Fences)

    1. “I only hope that the constituents and residents of our community (and in particular, the blog contributors here) RESPECT the process, and that the commentary doesn’t disintegrate into pot-shots at the steps and ultimately at the outcome. (Think Security Fences)” As a former school board member and someone who no longer lives in the state, I think it is you that may have the complete story. But then, what do I know, right? I’m not a current or former school member.

  4. it JUST struck me as odd that the school board is concentrating on hiring a new superintendent from WITHIN, and yet they won’t hire stoga grads for teaching positions… maybe no one cares, but why won’t they hire our own kids? Diversity? some of these kids go off to college and experience very unique and “diverse” well, experiences… is it because they mostly white? Some are well off, some are not.. why does no one raise this issue to our board? does the presence of the smart, articulate and kind Scott Dorsey let them off the hook? The presence of Republicans and Democrats let them off the hook? What is going on in this district? to me, no litigious sole, this smacks of discrimination. Suppose the Philadelphia school board decided to hire only white americans because of the diversity needed in a predominately black and hispanic student body? this would not fly

  5. There are several graduates of TESD working in the schools. You want the best, right? No inside track?
    The update explains that they are not focused on within for the Supt, but rather using the internal candidate as a starting point…

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