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Jeffco Schools community weighs in on superintendent qualities at forums

Communication, consensus-building and a strong education background top the list of qualities mentioned during community forums hosted by the superintendent search firm..
Communication, consensus-building and a strong education background top the list of qualities mentioned during community forums hosted by the superintendent search firm..
Lisa Cook

Excellent communication skills, consensus building and experience as an educator were among the most common qualities mentioned by approximately 30 participants in a Jeffco Schools community forum with superintendent search firm Ray and Associates at the Education Center in Golden last Wednesday.

The forum was one of several held Tuesday and Wednesday as the firm compiles information for a candidate profile. A composite of themes heard from all groups will be presented to the board during the April 3 school board meeting.

Bill Newman, National Executive Director for Ray and Associates, said he and colleague Mike Martinez were meeting with approximately 35 groups, including students, educators, PTA and school accountability team members, parents, and Jeffco community members to compile the profile. Both Newman and Martinez are former educators.

They asked about four issues: what makes Jeffco attractive, what qualities does a new superintendent need to possess, what management style qualities does the new superintendent need, and what challenges will the new superintendent confront?

Participants cited Jeffco's traditions of excellence, diversity, collaboration and school choice as some of the features that might make Jeffco Schools attractive to superintendent candidates. Another positive point was that Jeffco teachers continue to strive for excellence even after four years without a raise.

Communicating to the community, consensus building, experience as an educator, and having good business sense but not treating schools as a business were listed as qualities a new superintendent will need.

Communication was mentioned most frequently, with one Thomson Elementary parent noting that one of the qualities she appreciated in former superintendent Cindy Stevenson was that she seemed to value parents, kids, teachers and principals equally and respectfully.

Responses to the management style question were more varied, as participants mentioned innovation, being data-driven, and the ability to delegate effectively rather than micromanage. Others qualities included the ability to use national resources and good models for Jeffco's educational programs but also allow lots of local control for principals to make decisions regarding their individual schools. Using data to drive instruction, but balancing that with educating the whole child beyond test scores were also mentioned.

Challenges raised at the forum included teacher and staff morale and pay, state education funding and continued budget challenges, balancing diverse opinions and needs across the district, and replacing a number of top administrators who are leaving for other jobs in the wake of Stevenson's resignation. Being committed to retaining resources also topped the list, as did working with existing parent leadership and encouraging more parental involvement across the district.

Similar statements, especially prioritizing communication skills, were made at other community forums held at Arvada West High School.

Newman also encouraged everyone to take the online survey about qualities the new superintendent should have.

The survey lists 33 qualities and asks participants to select 10. A space to leave comments about superintendent qualities is also included. The survey link is on the Jeffco Schools homepage and the survey will be available though 5 pm on Friday, March 28.

Newman also noted that previous information stating the survey would be open only until 8 am was incorrect, and that the survey will indeed be available until 5 pm.

The search timeline calls for being ready to appoint a new superintendent, or at least beginning contract talks by mid-May.

"We believe we can get it done," Martinez said.

Ray and Associates representatives said the timeline included the following steps:

  • interviewing Jeffco School Board members individually, various stakeholder groups through the forums, and the online survey to build a candidate profile
  • presenting a composite of information and themes from all groups to the school board at the April 3 meeting
  • posting the profile and recruiting candidates
  • presenting 8 to 15 candidates to be screened by the Jeffco School Board.

After the screening process, two or three semi-finalists are chosen and the school board members will interview them to make a final decision, Martinez said.

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