Education

Public input sought on new Wichita superintendent

Wichita school board president Sheril Logan, center, and other school board members leave a special meeting last week on finding a new superintendent. (Jan. 5, 2017)
Wichita school board president Sheril Logan, center, and other school board members leave a special meeting last week on finding a new superintendent. (Jan. 5, 2017) File photo

Wichita school board members took several steps forward in their search for a new superintendent on Monday, voting to survey community members and to seek input from officials with the Council of Great City Schools.

The board also voted to issue a request for proposals from professional search firms but did not commit to hiring one. And they agreed to consider internal candidates before deciding whether to broaden their search more widely.

“I think you’ve positioned yourself in a good time frame,” superintendent John Allison told board members after the vote. Allison is leaving to become superintendent of Olathe schools.

Over the next two weeks, the board plans to post an online survey to gauge public sentiment about desired characteristics for a new superintendent. The district will use a standard survey developed by the Kansas Association of School Boards.

The six-question survey asks respondents to rank the importance of more than two dozen personal qualities, leadership qualities and professional experiences. The list includes such qualities as “relationship builder,” “ ‘kids first’ personality,” “efficient manager of resources” and “previous experience with your school district.”

The survey also will ask respondents to list the “top two critical issues the next superintendent must understand about your district in order for them to have a successful start to their superintendency in your district.”

At the board’s next meeting on Jan. 23, members plan to hear from Michael Casserly, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Council of Great City Schools, about the search and application process. The district will pay Casserly’s travel expenses for his visit to Wichita.

Board member Mike Rodee proposed issuing a request for proposals from professional search firms in case the board decides to hire one. “If we end up not needing them, we can throw them away,” Rodee said.

It is estimated that hiring a professional search firm, as the board did for its last search in 2008, would cost between $25,000 and $30,000.

Two members of the public urged the board Monday to look internally for a new superintendent.

Sherdeill Breathett, president of Real Men Real Heroes, a local mentoring organization, cautioned board members against spending thousands of dollars on a nationwide search and to instead “retain, regain and sustain right here in this community.”

Michael Capps told the board: “We have a pool of very qualified individuals, many of whom are sitting in this room right now, who could fill that role.”

“What they bring to the table that an outside source does not bring is a familiar face. … Being part of this community, part of this school district and understanding these students and their needs.”

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias

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