School board hears community views on superintendent
EAST SPENCER — According to survey results, Rowan County wants a superintendent who will build partnerships in the community, advocate for more funding and show strong “people skills.”
On Monday evening, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education heard the results of staff and community surveys about the search for a new superintendent.
Tanya Giovanni with the N.C. School Boards Association gave board members unredacted copies of the written comments. Copies available to the public have names of suggested candidates and other personnel-related comments removed.
She stressed that these surveys were not scientific, and the results only represent the views of the people who chose to participate.
“With a system of your size, you actually had a much greater than average participation rate,” Giovanni said.
Among the staff, 714 people started the survey, 690 finished it and 252 left comments. Of those who responded, 68.1 percent said they were teachers, 26.5 percent said they were support staff and 5.3 percent said they were administrators.
In the community, 404 people started the survey, 378 completed it and 188 included comments. Just 42.6 percent of survey respondents said they have children attending the Rowan-Salisbury School System, while 57.4 percent said they do not.
“I think this says you have an engaged community,” Giovanni said. “They’re definitely engaged and aware of what you guys are doing, and they want to help, it looks like.”
Participants were asked give each of 25 characteristics a rating of 1 to 5 — least important to most important — based on what they would like to see in the next school superintendent.
The top-ranked trait by the community was somebody who “knows how to get staff, students, parents and (the) community to work together to help children learn.”
Staff ranked somebody who “has strong human relations or ‘people skills’” at the top.
Both of those answers were in the top five on both surveys, along with “understands how to provide safe environments for students and staff” and “understands how to effectively advocate for resources needed to operate the schools.”
Community members also said they want a person who “understands school finance, budgets and business management,” while staff members said they want a person who “has been an effective classroom teacher.”
Giovanni said she has never seen safety, people skills and budget issues ranked that high on a community survey, and she encouraged the board to find out more about why people in Rowan County are concerned about them.
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After receiving the results of the survey, board members brainstormed their own list of traits they think are important in the next superintendent.
“If a board member says it, it goes on the list,” Giovanni said.
She said she will use their comments to create a guide that will help the members evaluate the applications. They can pick out candidates to interview based on how well they fit those criteria, she said.
The applications were due Monday, and they will be sent to the school board within a week.
Members also will rank criteria to create an advertisement with a system run by the Michigan State Board of Education. That system can create a candidate profile from the school board’s answers to expand the search nationwide, in case it isn’t satisfied with the applications that come in.
Chairman Richard Miller said he thinks the school system needs somebody who is effective in crisis management and can handle controversy without shying away from it.
He said the person should not rely on “lap dogs” or “yes men,” but instead listen to good ideas and not be threatened by those who challenge them.
L.A. Overcash said he wants to see someone who is fair, honest and not scared to make controversial decisions.
Susan Cox said she wants to see someone who is good at both building teams and working with them. She said she also thinks it is important for the superintendent to have classroom experience as a teacher.
Miller added that the person should have proven experience in leadership as an instructor.
Chuck Hughes said he would like to see someone who has administrative experience, has good people skills, takes responsibility and doesn’t always delegate, understands finances and assets, is “assertive but fair” and can communicate well with city and county officials.
Kay Wright Norman said she doesn’t want someone who always defers to someone else to handle a problem. She is looking for a superintendent who can effectively communicate to the public “exactly where we are as a system, what we are attempting to do and why they are important… to the success of the school system.”
She said it’s important to have a superintendent who will be engaged with all minority communities.
Norman said the school system also needs someone who is always looking for new ways to bring in more resources for the system, can use proven research to move the system forward and embraces technology system-wide.
Miller said it’s important to have someone who realizes that “they’re a legal part of the board, but they are not the board of education.” In other words, board members said, to respect the role and authority of the board.
When the new superintendent discusses something with a team, Norman said she would like that information to be presented to the board before it goes into action.
“That sounds like micromanaging to me,” said Jean Kennedy.
Miller said the board should respect that it hires the superintendent to run the school system, but “I do think there is a courtesy to the board to not be blindsided by decisions that we might have some concern about.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.