What is the community looking for in a superintendent?

Published 12:06 am Thursday, May 5, 2022

SALISBURY — The Post surveyed locals about what they are looking for in a superintendent and received a mix of responses from parents, current and former employees and community members.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools is looking for a new leader and will close applications for the job on May 16.

Here is what they said:

What is most important to you in a new superintendent?

Familiarity with and commitment to the community was high on the list for many responders as well as a commitment to the district’s special renewal status. One responder was blunt: He wants a local person.

A former student and teacher said she is looking for a superintendent who is intentional.

“They must be intentional about their purpose, their morals and goals. They must also be a communicator. They must be OK with stepping outside of the box and willing to meet people where they are,” she wrote.

A parent said stability and a leader who will improve employee morale is important for the new pick. Another responder said he is looking for someone who will drive equitable education in every area of the county.

What would you like to see the new superintendent accomplish?

Pushing renewal forward and community engagement was high on the list for accomplishments for the new superintendent as well. One parent said he wants to see the superintendent improve community engagement and “flex renewal flexibility muscle more.

Resource distribution was another topic high on the list. One community member said he wants to see more staff and resources in each school and spending reduced in the central office and another said he wants schools to be safe and kept at at least 80% of their capacity, even if it requires redistricting and stopping transfers.

The district has slowly been consolidating schools with a handful of elementary school closures over the past few years. Currently it is planning to combine Knox Middle School and Overton Elementary School into one K-8 on the land between the two schools

Is a local hire important to you?

Responses on this issue were mixed.

Some responders flatly answered yes to the question like the aforementioned community member who listed it as the most important quality in the next superintendent.

Others were ambivalent, saying a local hire would be good but commitment is more important.

“They do not have to work here or be from here, but having familiarity with our community and our recent history in renewal is important,” one parent wrote.

A former teacher said a local hire is not important to her and that most of the local talent in the district has gone on to bigger and better things.

“We can’t get different results using the same things,” she wrote. “We’ve got to be open to stretching our bandwidth.”

How do people feel about the search process?

The responses were split between people who like the search process, which includes a survey and community forum expected to be held next month, but no public forums with candidates.

When former superintendent Tony Watlington was hired to take the same job in Philadelphia he and two other finalists were part of several public forums.

One responder said he wants a more inclusive collaboration with parents and businesses for the search, noting he has no comments about the process that are complimentary and another said he believes the search is only for show. Another man said he believes the input process causes conflict and the Board of Education should just hire a superintendent.

Others said the process will be improved by getting more input in the community and want to improve the process by having more people involved in schools voicing opinions on the process. Some responders said they liked the public forums in Philadelphia and hopes the public input for RSS will be impactful.

One responder said if the board does not make a decision soon they should provide a way for the incoming school board to make the decision. Several member’s seats will be up for election this year.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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