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Archive for Sunday, August 31, 2008

Key position

Lawrence school officials need to conduct an aggressive search for a new superintendent, but they should keep in mind that the best person for the job won’t necessarily be from far away.

August 31, 2008

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The announced retirement of Lawrence School Supt. Randy Weseman at the end of the current school year will leave some big shoes to fill.

Weseman has been a thoughtful and committed leader for the Lawrence schools. During his 33 years with the Lawrence district, he had been a teacher, a coach, a principal and an assistant superintendent. He understands both Lawrence schools and the community.

Almost immediately after Weseman's retirement was announced, School Board President Craig Grant said the board would embark on a nationwide search to find a new superintendent. That is what people are supposed to say as they prepare to fill a high-profile job, but the people doing the hiring should keep in mind that the best candidate may not necessarily come from another part of the country.

In fact, Weseman's predecessor was an example of someone who appeared well qualified on paper for the Lawrence superintendent's job, but turned out to be a poor fit for the position. She came from the Chicago area and never seemed to get a feel for Lawrence or its schools. She never permanently relocated to Lawrence and continued to return to her home near Chicago on weekends. After two years on the job in Lawrence, she resigned to take a job back home.

Weseman, who was assistant superintendent at the time, took over as interim superintendent in 2000 and subsequently was hired to fill the position permanently.

It's important for the Lawrence school district to cast a wide net in its search for Weseman's replacement. It would be good if they actively searched out the best possible candidates rather than just review the applications that come in. Board members have said it is unlikely that the next superintendent will be someone currently working for the district, but perhaps there will be candidates who live relatively nearby or have some past connection with Lawrence.

Those doing the search should look for someone who puts students first and knows how to support teachers and building administrators. It might be a plus to find someone who can bring new ideas and inspiration to the Lawrence schools, but distance doesn't necessarily make them more qualified for the job.

No one works with the public in a high-profile position like Weseman's without ruffling some feathers and making a few enemies, but, overall, Weseman has provided strong, positive leadership for the Lawrence district. He cares about kids and he has done the best he can to balance the needs of the schools and students against the concerns of taxpayers.

Hiring someone to fill such a public position can be a tricky proposition. Good luck to those conducting the search.

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