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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  • DFISR722

    From the sounds of this the next supt. is going to be some out of town Mr./Mrs. Brown.

    “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.

    I applaud the board for hiring a “consultant” for assistance, I just hope they have enough wisdom to listen to the community when it speaks. Recent history has shown a pattern of following “consultants” off a cliff despite what public opinion may be.

    Are we as parents, taxpayers, and concerned citizens expected to fall in line behind the recommendation of a “consultant” who is destined to drive away with our money in their pocket for “finding” us something we may already have? Will the folks making the final decision have enough “gumption” (more acceptable term than the first that comes to mind) to go against the “consultants” recommendation?

    If I am not mistaken Mr. Law started out as a third grade teacher @NCS. He then was HS principal and Asst. Supt. before becoming the Supt. He has been given rave reviews for his performance yet somehow now the thought of promoting from within seems to be out of style? Is it the general feeling that we have no candidate from within?

    I believe this is a golden oppurtunity to hand the ball to someone who can hit the ground running. Someone who has spent their life here and knows the realities of our community and the people who live in it. Somebody with a “vested interest” in our community and not one merely landing on their next stepping stone to somewhere esle.

    The last thing NCS needs is a revolving door at the administrative office or a leader with a red tipped white cane (so to speak) trying to figure out who and how things work in this town. While the rest of us twist in the wind during the “getting a feel” period, this period is unavoidable whomever gets the job.

    The kids and the community deserve someone who knows them and cares for them already. With the times we are currently in it sure doesn’t seem like a good time to gamble on an unknown evil to me.

    The schools are really our children, do we want them to have a step parent or a biological one?

    Dave Fisher

  • Myrt

    Dave, I couldn’t agree more with your reasoning about a person with vested interest in our community. I too believe if someone can do the job, they should be hired from within.
    However your last comment raised my hackles. My daughters step-dad is their DAD in his mind and their minds. Their father moved across country and did the OBLIGATORY visits in the summer, but their step-dad RAISED and LOVES them unconditionally. The girls CHOSE their step-dad to walk them down the aisle, to dance the father daughter dance, etc. because their biological dad chose not to be the parent he should have been. I know you are a good parent and I can name several mutual friends who aren’t the best role models for their children. The “ugly step-parent” sterotype does not exist – at least in our family. We just need to make sure like all good parents (step or biological), this superintendent is going to what is best for our children.

  • DFISR722

    I meant no offense to any step parent with my remark, I just felt it was a fitting analogy in this case.

  • Myrt

    Thanks Dave – I appreciate that.

  • belmont

    No doubt there are members of the staff that one feels may do a good job. At the cost of education and the many tides coming from Lansing, you want the BEST available talent. Someone who can hit the floor running. There isn’t time for a training/learning curve.
    Mr. Law grew up in the Niles system when times were good. The economy was sufficient to support NCS. Certainly over the years Niles has lost manufacturing and employment but in phases. Now we are at the bottom and only one way to go; that is unless Lansing creates roadblocks.
    The School Board felt it was in NCS best interest to hire a consultant to lead the Board and the community and find the best person for the Superintendents position.

  • Kevin Tonkin

    Why not combine Brandywine with NCS?

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