The Search for USD 231’s Interim Superintendent

On January 18, the BOE held a special meeting to explain and discuss the search for USD 231’s next interim superintendent.

On+January+18%2C+the+BOE+met+to+explain+the+process+for+hiring+an+interim+superintendent.

Olivia Steele

On January 18, the BOE met to explain the process for hiring an interim superintendent.

Olivia Steele

After former superintendent Pam Stranathan resigned in December, the search began for a new superintendent to fill Stranathan’s open spot, starting with naming former GEHS principal and Director of Auxiliary Services Mark Meyer as interim and followed by a special meeting on January 18. 

The special meeting began with a presentation from Jody Marshall, Director of Human Resources, where he discussed the process of hiring a new interim superintendent for USD 231, who would last until June 30, 2022.

“They need to get here and get immersed in the district right away,” Marshall said.

As Marshall was giving the presentation, board Vice President Tom Reddin passed out a four page document he, Board President Lana Sutton, and Katie Williams collaborated on during their committee established for the purpose of coming up with the criteria for the ideal interim superintendent. 

“I’m telling you, I’ve only had a chance to read the first page, [but] it is chock-full of important criteria and qualities,” Marshall said. “So I’m quite certain they’re going to make an informed decision.”

Marshall then invited the members of the committee to describe their process. 

“I emailed the principal from every school and many of our directors within the district to get feedback on what they would like to see in an interim, and potentially in the future, superintendent,” Reddin said.

Sutton explained she received emails from some citizens regarding what they are looking for in a superintendent. Sutton said Williams got feedback from citizens in another way.

“I got emails and text messages from parents and other community members, as well as I took to social media; that’s just kind of what I do,” Williams said. “On CFG [Citizens for the Future of Gardner community Facebook page] I asked the community members what they thought as well and collected information from them.”

Marshall then congratulated them on their work before continuing the presentation, noting that on January 13, an open position for interim superintendent was posted to the USD 231 employment website. His slideshow that accompanied the presentation also stated the announcement was posted to state and national websites and that applications will be closing on January 28. He then showed the announcement that was posted.

“This is probably going to be a slightly watered-down version of what you’re going to see when we put the posting out for the actual superintendent,” Marshall said. “But I think it is informative to the community to see what we’re looking for.”

Below is the word-for-word purpose of the position written on the document.

Marshall then went on to list all the preferred qualifications for the position as well as the required functions and duties whoever is hired will have to do as interim superintendent.

Olivia Steele

“Again, they’re stepping in and taking over as a superintendent, so they’re going to do the day-to-day stuff that a superintendent does in a district, which is no easy assignment, of course,” Marshall said.

Marshall then outlined the next steps in relation to the process of hiring a superintendent and conversed with board members about concerns and comments about the salary and the physical examination. They also discussed the number of applicants as of January 18; two had applied so far and a third notified Marshall they were going to submit their application sometime in the next few days after that meeting.

“I put out feeler calls and I am optimistic we might get another call or two,” Marshall said. “If we could leave it set for another three or four weeks, I guarantee we’d scare up some more people, but it’s go time, guys.”

Sutton suggested that the application be closed early if the perfect person were to “walk through the door,” and Marshall agreed with her. The presentation was then over after that.

Sutton then listed superintendent qualities that community members and administrators would like to see.

Olivia Steele

“Being accessible to the parents and the community, across the board at all levels…in Edgerton, as well, was something I heard over and over,” Sutton said. “‘A uniting presence’ was very important to people… ‘Previous experience as a teacher, a building-level administrator, and a district-level administrator’… I was told quite a few times being a previous superintendent [or] an assistant superintendent was important…I did hear ‘having their doctorate’ quite a few times.”

 

The other two board members added on what they were told by community members.

 

“‘An effective communicator and listener’ was very frequent among the people that contributed,” Reddin said. “I’ll add to that a couple of my contributors were both city managers. They want to start building that relationship more with the school and the community. ‘Someone who makes the staff feel supported, valued, and challenged’, things along those lines, were very frequent.”

Williams also added aspects that she thought stuck out to her.

“I got a lot of the same stuff as everybody else,” Williams said. “They really want strong support with special education. I’d say a couple different things that I got were ‘being able to be available and approachable’ by the teachers… [and] ‘willing to listen and collaborate.’ There was a few of them that expressed an interest in a superintendent who is diverse and also supporting and understanding of our students in the LGBTQ community and their mental health and the struggles that they go through during school.”

School board member Kristen Schultz also shared the results of a survey shared amongst USD 231 teachers about qualities they would like in a superintendent.

“I think one of the most common sentences was ‘we’re the educators so we are on the frontlines, so to speak,’” Schultz said. “I think what I took from this personally was [that] there is a lot of feedback on us and the conduct of our board meetings, and I think that’s really important to reflect on and consider what we look like as we’re arguing or not arguing to our staff, and I think that’s something that we can really make a promise to do better at.”

Board member Greg Chapman also thanked members of the community for their involvement in the choosing of the new interim superintendent.

“It’s been really amazing to see all the different groups in our community reach out to various members of the board and ask to be involved,” Chapman said. “I think that just really speaks to how important in a positive or negative manner that a superintendent is to our community. I mean, we’re kind of a special district. We have two cities that we encompass, but we’re one giant community.”

Marshall decided to add one last thing to his presentation, clarifying for the public how the school district is going to go about interviewing the new interim superintendent. He read a few questions that would be asked, such as sharing a description of their educational and professional background, what they know about the district, and why they are interested in the position.

“This is just to demonstrate that we have a formal, deliberate process we’re going through,” Marshall said. “I would say to [the school board], as a professional, as a community member, and as a parent, I’m so gratified to hear you talk about this process just for the interim. I can’t imagine how comprehensive and dynamic the process is going to be when we look for the permanent superintendent. That’s very reassuring for us as employees.”

The school board went into executive session for the rest of the meeting. The next regular board meeting will be on February 7.

Click here to watch the meeting.