Profile for next superintendent set

Apr. 25, 2014 @ 05:46 PM

Durham wants a superintendent with excellent people skills who presents a positive image of the district and will listen to input and make a decision when necessary.

The next superintendent should also possess the leadership skills required to respond to challenges presented by an ethnically and culturally diverse community.

He or she must also inspire trust, self confidence and model high standards of integrity.

All of the above were among the traits Durham residents identified as important on an online survey and during recent focus group meetings with Iowa-based Ray & Associates, the firm hired by the school board to conduct the district’s search for a new superintendent.

All of the top qualities will be printed on a flyer and shared with prospective candidates for the superintendent’s post.

The ability to respond to the challenges of an “ethnically and culturally diverse” community was ranked as the No. 1 trait and identified as such by teachers, support staff, non-parent community members, city council, county commissioners, the faith community and school board. 

It was followed by “strong communicator” and “someone who inspires trust and self-confidence.”

The online survey that asked citizens to check the 10 most important of 33 qualities they want to see in the next superintendent was filled out by 514 people, while 20 respondents submitted hard copies.

School board member Natalie Beyer said she was “underwhelmed” by the community’s participation in identifying the desired traits.

“I expected more from our community,” Beyer said.

But Gary Ray, president of Ray & Associates, in a Skype meeting with members of the board, said the 534 respondents were about the right number for a community the size of Durham.

“That’s pretty typical,” Ray said. “That’s in the range.”

He said that on occasion, a community will get 800 or 1,000 people to respond to a survey.

The desired traits shared by people who responded to the survey and participated in focus sessions will be the ones used to build the superintendent profile.

But the board agreed to reopen the survey on the DPS website and also to invite Durham CAN, El Centro Hispano and the Durham Housing Authority to a Skype meeting with Ray & Associates to share input on the qualities they would like to see in the next superintendent so the board will have that information as it proceeds with the search.

Those organizations were invited to participate in focus group sessions but for whatever reason did not do so.

The school board is on an aggressive timeline to hire a new superintendent in June.

All application materials from candidates are due May 15.

The timeline also calls for interviewing semi-finalists May 29-31 and finalists the week of June 2.

The remaining qualities identified on surveys and by focus groups include:

-- Has successful experience in sound management practices, including appropriate participation of others in planning and decision-making.

-- Is able to delegate authority appropriately while maintaining accountability.

-- Is strongly committed to a “student first” philosophy in all decisions.

-- Possesses the ability to enhance student performance, especially in identifying and closing or narrowing the gaps in student achievement.

-- Demonstrates commitment to community visibility with high interest in a broad range of community groups and organizations.

-- Is capable of developing both short and long-range district goals.

-- Has knowledge of emerging research and best practices in the area of curriculum/instructional design and practice.