15 Sep 2014
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Students Outshine Elders in 109 Superintendent Search Process

Children interviewed by search firm display focus and goal orientation.

Students Outshine Elders in 109 Superintendent Search Process

When it came to providing information to help the search firm seeking a new superintendent for Deerfield Public Schools District 109, the students outshined their parents, teachers and administrator.

Consultants Hank Gmitro and Kim Perkins of the ECRA group told more than 50 people at Monday’s Board of Education meeting what their research told them about the wishes of the community for a superintendent to replace retiring Renee Goier. They liked what they learned from the children.

Earlier: 109 Board Includes Public in Superintendent Search

ECRA talked to 106 people including administrators, teachers, parents, students, community leaders and the public at large to assemble information. They also reviewed 292 on line surveys submitted from people in the Village.

As the consultants defined the snapshot of the community on how it sees the future of the District, 73 percent of the adults were focused on adult relationships and only 18 percent mentioned student issues.

“This is a somewhat unusual pattern for a school district,” Gmitro said. “Some of the best summaries came from the students. All of the statements from the groups were unbalanced except for the students.”

Perkins, a former educator and administrator, came away impressed with the District 109 children. “Wow, you have to be proud of them,” he said. “They are so well spoken, goal oriented and focused.”

Pride was the one word summary Gmitro had when describing how the community saw its elementary and middle schools though he suggested there was work to be done by a new superintendent.

“Two things jumped out,” Gmitro said. “Passion and a great deal of pride. People students, teachers and parents are all invested in the education of the children.”

One of the major concerns of people surveyed was a new leader who could deal with what were perceived as trust issues between the Board and the community and between the teachers and administration, according to Gmitro. They also overwhelmingly prefer a sitting superintendent.

“What was successful 10 years ago may not be what the students need today,” Gmitro said. “The challenge is to define what the future looks like.”

By the time Gmitro and Perkins finished describing their research they concluded Deerfield wants a collaborative and effective communicator, a knowledgeable and visionary educator, an effective and insightful systems thinker, a proactive and resourceful problem solver and a competent and detail oriented manager.

“In other words, someone who can walk on water,” Gmitro said. At that point the Board wanted to assure itself their expectations would not severely reduce the potential applicant pool.

Board member Deborah Muller was concerned balancing the need for a current superintendent who was not more than 10 years removed from a classroom may reduce the applicant pool.

“I probably agree with that,” she said referring to a new hire with superintendent experience. “That will take them further away from their own classroom.” Gmitro suggested that part of the experience in the job description could be a preference rather than a requirement.

The current goal is to select five or six candidates for interviews the week of Nov. 20 followed by a second round of more in depth dialogues the week of Dec. 7 with three finalists. The intention at this point is to announce the choice of the new superintendent Jan. 14.

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