Archived Story

Search in full swing for superintendent

Published 9:27am Friday, October 23, 2009

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

Officials with the Niles Community School district are getting into the thick of the search for a new superintendent, as it was announced Thursday that a slate of targeted focus groups and two community-wide focus groups were scheduled to begin in the coming weeks.

Those focus group and community meetings will be facilitated by Craig Misner, the consultant hired to aid in the search for current superintendent Doug Law’s replacement when he retires in June. The purpose of the meetings will be to gather opinions on what the district and the community are looking for in their future superintendent.

“We go through a process in terms of meetings,” Misner said.

That process, he added, is designed to involve the community “in (determining) what are some of the qualities and characteristics that you’re looking for” in a superintendent.

All together, 13 different meetings will be held. Misner will meet with various school and community groups, government leaders, the Chamber of Commerce, service clubs and union officials.
And two open community forums have been scheduled for Nov. 2.

“With all these groups the first thing I ask is what are the strengths of the district,” Misner said.
The first will be held at 2:30 p.m. at the Niles Senior Citizen Center followed by a forum at 7:30 p.m. in the district offices at Westside School.

Each session will last approximately 30 minutes.

“It’s an opportunity to get feedback,” both internally through school officials, students and staff as well as externally through the community, Misner said.

While there is always a core group of qualities desired for a superintendent in any district, there are also characteristics and strengths that might be necessary dependent upon the community.

“There are certain things that are obvious,” Misner said. “Good, strong leader, good financial background … But there is some variation.

“We all want that person who can do everything and do it very well,” he said.

Misner said it helps in compiling an opinion on what kind of candidate would be best for the job and “develop a proposed profile” to get a real feel for the community.

“The school district is really the staple, I think, of the community,” he said.

The search for a qualified candidate in looking for Law’s replacement is enhanced by the challenges the district is currently facing – including significant cuts in state funding.

“It’s an economic development issue too,” Misner said. As the state goes through its own woes of high unemployment and economic hardship when it comes to prospective businesses, having and maintaining a strong school district can act as one of the benefits in luring businesses to the area.

“It’s a very difficult time to be on a school board or a superintendent,” said Misner. “It’s always an extremely key decision.” But he said in his personal opinion, “Someone coming in needs to be well-prepared” for challenges.

The community forums will be an excellent opportunity, Misner said, to hear what the people want in the future leader of the Niles Community Schools district.

The information gathered will be reviewed by the board, which is planning on naming Law’s replacement by March 1.

“We want our new superintendent to be able to spend some time with Mr. Law to learn about the community and the district, before Mr. Law leaves at the end of June,” board president Dana Daniels said.

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