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Community: Next Superintendent Must Be Courageous, Communicative

The school board received a detailed list Monday night of the district's successes, challenges and a description of the type of person they should chose to lead the district next fall.

What people in Manchester want from their next superintendent of schools is nearly everything, and his or her ability to "walk on water."

But a consultant guiding the school board through the selection process said she will help identify the perfect person for the job.

Jacqueline Jacoby, an independent contractor through the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, heard from about 350 people through a series of focus groups and surveys about the characteristics and qualities they wanted their next school leader to possess.

In a nutshell, the next superintendent must be honest, have great integrity, be courageous, be able to stand up and say what needs to be said and competent.

The person must be approachable, a good listener, a thoughtful and decisive problem solver, a systemic thinker and able to receive staff input and help them prioritize, Jacoby said.

The next superintendent must also respect diversity and have experience in a diverse school system, have both success and experience as an educational leader and have high expectations for students, staff and parents, she said.

The person must be a strong communicator and the ability to connect with the community, be collaborative, know instruction, and be proactive in engaging in the planning, implementation and assessment of school programs.

And this person must be a very prudent financial manager, Jacoby said.

In addition to sharing their wants for the next superintendent of schools, community members also shared their opinions of the school district’s perceived successes and challenges.

Although it is an unscientific survey here is some of what Jacoby concluded:

Success

  • People are comfortable with their teaching staff
  • There are many quality administrators
  • There is great pride in the diversity of population and the music education program within the district
  • There is fantastic support for early childhood education
  • The variety and availability of afterschool programs offered by the schools and the community is wonderful
  • The comprehensiveness of course offerings, particularly at MHS, is appreciated
  • There are “pockets of excellence” in certain schools with “very dynamic teaching and very dynamic leadership” that they want extended across the entire district.

Challenges

  • Facilities must be upgraded and more technology integrated for instruction and communication
  • Student achievement must be improved
  • In some quarters, there is a poor public image of the public schools and a perception of flight of some families to leave for alternative school programs. This must be corrected.
  • Standards should be raised for students through more individual educational planning and differential instruction and curriculum to suit the needs of every student.
  • There must be more effective communication, engagement with the community, as a whole and among the schools to “build unity of purpose”
  • Officials must correct the difficult atmosphere that is perceived to exist between school and town officials, and lack of trust.

Jacoby will now take this information and develop a profile of the requirements for the next superintendent of schools and compile the focus group results into a document to be posted on the school district’s website later this week.

The next step for the board, if it is to meet its goal of hiring a new superintendent of schools by July, will be to go through interview training and develop a set of unique questions for the candidates. The deadline to apply for the position is April 3 and school officials anticipate starting the interview process soon thereafter.

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