Lawrence school board finalizes desired characteristics for new superintendent; online public survey still open

The original list of more than 30 desired characteristics.

What began as a brainstorm of more than 30 desired characteristics of a superintendent has now been narrowed down and finalized. Members of the Lawrence school board came up with the original list last week, and have since identified the top five and redrafted those to a finished product.

The characteristics will be used as part of the application for a superintendent to replace Superintendent Rick Doll, who is leaving at the end of this school year.

Members of the public participated in five sessions this week to provide input on the superintendent search, including skills, qualities or characteristics the new superintendent should have. The survey can be completed anonymously online until Jan. 20.

The school board’s final characteristics:

• Demonstrate the leadership skills needed to achieve academic excellence for all students by ensuring staff engagement, development and accountability. With this characteristic, board members said they wanted a superintendent who was comfortable making big decisions and could act as a guide as necessary.

• Exhibit the communication skills necessary to effectively build team-focused, collaborative relationships across all levels. The board’s discussion here centered on the superintendent’s relationships with others — board members, teachers, staff, administrators — and the importance of listening to and valuing feedback from everyone.

• Embrace the district’s goal of raising the achievement of all students, while closing achievement gaps through continued racial equity programming. This was one that all board members felt strongly about. Equity has been one of the district’s three main goals for several years, and board members voiced concern about a backslide if the new superintendent isn’t committed to reducing achievement gaps among subgroups of students.

• Advocate for student-centered programs, activities and initiatives, including continued implementation of personalized student learning. If you’re not familiar with the idea of student-centered programs, that concept has lots of different meanings in the education world. One example of that in Lawrence is the concept of blended learning — which blends traditional instruction, online material and small group work — to give teachers more ability to tailor lessons to the needs of specific students.

• Build community, employee and student trust through engagement and transparency. The idea here was pretty straightforward; the board wants the superintendent to be involved and open with the community.

The timeline for the superintendent search process:

• Jan. 25: Board of Education Meeting to review public input and determine interview questions and schedules

• Feb. 16: Closing date for applications

• Feb. 29: Special board of education meeting to review candidate applications, select semi-finalists and finalize interview schedule.

• March 3-4: Board conducts candidate screening interviews with semi-finalists and chooses finalists

• March 7-8: Board conducts finalist interviews with an opportunity for representatives of student, parent, staff and community groups to meet finalists and provide feedback to the board

• Week of March 7: Special board meeting for the hiring of a superintendent