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Qualities that some Grand Island School District residents want in a new superintendent include commitment to maintaining the high level of student achievement and fiscal responsibility and longevity.
A handful of residents, two School Board members and some faculty attended a public forum Monday evening in the high school auditorium with two representatives of the University of Rochester Warner Center.
The center was hired by the board as consultants in the search for a successor to Robert Christmann, who retired Oct. 1 after six years. Now executive director of the Western New York Education Services Council, Christmann is serving as interim superintendent on a part-time basis.
Earlier in the day, Stephen J. Uebbing and Timothy J. McElheran, both retired superintendents, met with Town Board members, PTA members, and teachers, among others to gauge what qualities people want in a new superintendent.
Residents can take part in an online survey at www.k12.ginet.org. The deadline for completed surveys is Nov. 1. The board hopes to hire a new superintendent by the end of the year.
McElheran presented some statistics related to superintendents statewide that reveal the average time they remain in the job is four years. About 65 percent of superintendents are between ages 49 – the usual age for a first-time superintendent – to 72. They tend to retire at age 60.
Citing a 2009 survey, McElheran said superintendents “are entering the profession later in life and staying in the job for a shorter period” than a few decades ago.
The majority of people becoming superintendents come from district office staff or were building principals.
McElheran also said “districts appear to be more likely to hire internal candidates than a decade ago.” This “may be in response to pressure in the applicant pool” from people who are ready for the post through a district’s “succession planning efforts” – such as mentoring of an assistant superintendent, a business manager or a principal to be ready for the top job.
Some of the barriers the consultants see to hiring include the scope of the job; loss of job security in that superintendents have three- to five-year contracts rather than tenure; having school-age children they are reluctant to relocate to a new school; cost-of-living considerations, including having to sell a home; and concerns about a spouse giving up a job to move.
Uebbing asked audience members to list five ideas of what they’d like to see in a superintendent. In addition to the above, these included being a team player who empowers and inspires other members of the school teaching and administrative team. Also, being involved in the work of One Island One Dream One Team, a group of town and school officials, parents and community members that works on issues affecting students, including substance abuse.
The audience also was asked about the most important personal quality they want in a superintendent. The answers included integrity, compassion, respect, passion and being outgoing.
The group did not express a strong interest in having a superintendent who lives on Grand Island, but one woman commented that she didn’t want someone who “flies in from New York City on a Monday and goes home on Friday.” The consultants said they recommend that applicants reside within a 20-minute commute of the district.