Thursday, June 14, 2012

The search for just right

It’s been about five years since Goochland County hired a new superintendent of schools. Not much was known about the hiring process used then. The school board announced that the current superintendent was leaving and it was searching for a replacement. Things are different now.

Our new school board promised to conduct its business as openly as possible. To speed selection of a new superintendent the Board retained the search firm of BWP and Associates to facilitate this delicate task.

Given the confidentiality required of personnel matters, the identity of candidates will not be made public. However, the school board is committed to openly sharing the methodology used in arriving at its decision. The recruitment process used by BWP supports that approach to transparency.

The firm’s website includes a link to the Goochland search as well as phone numbers for BWP consultants Drs. Kevin Castner and Wayne Harris who are working with Goochland. The website also explains the recruitment process used by BWP.

On the first Monday in June Castner and Harris came to Goochland and began to determine what qualities the county wants in its new superintendent. They spoke with the supervisors, the sheriff, school administration, county staff, and teachers. On June 6 they held a public forum to gather input on the search and explain how the search will be conducted.

They also want to hear from you. A brief survey may be accessed on the school website, and paper surveys are available at the public library. Please take a few minutes to participate in this important activity. The survey will close on June 15.

Castner explained that BWP will present the school board with a slate of four to six well-qualified candidates that they believe are a good fit for Goochland. This is expected to occur in early August. The school board then winnows down the finalists to choose the next superintendent. A timeline included in the presentation includes the expectation of a new superintendent on board in September.

The results of the boots-on-the-ground investigation by Castner and Harris will be distilled into a Goochland specific profile approved by the school board. This profile, crafted to paint a picture of important qualities for candidates, will be part of the search. This profile includes professional qualification and experience and attitudinal attributes.

Interested parties apply online. BWP vets applications to select those that they believe appropriate for Goochland. Sometimes they encourage people they know who they believe would be a good fit for a particulate position to apply.

References are checked to verify information on applications and associates use their personal relationships throughout the education community nationwide to determine which candidates are a good fit for Goochland.

As applications come in, Castner and Harris will use their contacts and experience — they are both retired school superintendents — to make appropriate recommendations.
Castner said that while the Goochland search is not occurring at the optimum time, he believes that the position will attract many highly qualified people. Due to the relatively small size of our school district and accompanying modest salary, applicants will likely be highly qualified assistant superintendents.

“We want the school board’s job to be very difficult when they choose the new superintendent,” said Castner. Then he settled into the work of the evening, gathering public input to use in crafting the profile.

All comments were thoughtful and constructive. Although attendance at the forum was light, those who came clearly value our schools and want them to succeed.

People want someone who plays well with others and does not run with scissors. They want a superintendent who will cherish our teachers and find ways to help them ensure that each child reaches their maximum potential while in Goochland Schools.

Thoughts expressed at the forum included:
•Our schools are doing a good job at passing (the SOLs) but a poor job of excelling.
•Our schools are not as strong as they once were and that must be reversed.
•We are looking for someone whose values are consistent with those of the community and is able to rebuild trust between the schools and the rest of Goochland.
•A superintendent who visits the schools each week to offer encouragement and support, not micromanagement.
•Rebuilding relationships
•Inspirational leadership
•Vision, working to a purpose
•Take risks
•Some who will help ensure that each child reaches full potential before leaving Goochland schools.
•Goochland has many elements for success, but needs a catalyst to make it happen.
We need a way to measure real performance, not just the SOLs.

In short, we want someone to lead, run our schools well, love them, and encourage the entire community to do the same.

The school board will work hard to hire the person whose qualifications, experience, and attitude are compatible with our schools. If they don’t get the chemistry right, the other attributes won’t matter.

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