Community shares desires for new superintendent

INDEPENDENCE — The comments were extensive, compiled in a binder about one-inch thick.

Where does the community want Central School District to be in five years? And what qualities does the next superintendent need to get the district there?

Good listener, seasoned, diverse, understands the needs of the community, invested in the community, good leader, good communicator, decisive.

These are just a few of the desires of people who participated in the initial stage of the superintendent search.

Representatives from McKenzie Group Search Consultants spoke with about 300 people at 11 community forums in the last month, in addition to about 100 responses via an online survey.

Greg McKenzie and Mike Taylor presented the results to the board.

“You can see a summary of where we went, who we talked to, what they told us,” McKenzie said. “Then you will see a section called ‘consultant recommendations.’ We tossed (the feedback) into a mixing bowl, stirred it up and tried to find common themes.”

The basic results were that Central is made up off two close-knit communities working together for the schools, McKenzie said.

“It has a great location and proximity to other major cities, also the coast and the mountains,” he said.

McKenzie said priorities were similar to other districts: No. 1 was to lower class sizes.

Also, provide more career and technical education, as well as science, technology, engineering and math courses.

Some things unique to Central include the issues at the high school, Taylor said.

“The topic does come up at the high school about consistent leadership,” he said. “People perceive this as a cycle, and could we figure out how to bridge those.”

During a community meeting at Central High School on Thursday, former superintendent Forrest Bell said the high school was unique in many ways.

“People who teach in this high school don’t live here,” he said. “That’s a different dynamic. The superintendent is going to hire a new principal. It would be really nice if (he or she) could find a place to live in the community.”

Another issue at the high school involved the teachers union, Central Education Association, Bell said.

“This is an old-school union,” he said. “They’re going to protect their worst people, and the community’s going to get frustrated with that, and the union in Salem is not going to care.”

Bell said teachers will fight whoever is hired as superintendent “tooth and nail.”

“They’re going to undermine them the best they can,” he said. “He or she needs to keep a calm spirit to deal with it.”

Independence City Manager David Clyne said at Thursday’s forum that he wants someone who is culturally diverse and bilingual, and someone who would reopen Henry Hill as an elementary school.

McKenzie said that finding a bicultural, bilingual administrator is a tall order because Central cannot offer as much money as larger school districts.

“We don’t want a lesser candidate just because they’re bilingual,” Bell said. “We want an outstanding candidate who is also bilingual.”

The school board approved the qualifications survey and adopted a salary range of $127,000 to $137,000, just above the current mean and average for districts Central’s size.

Before the next school board meeting on Feb. 6, the board will appoint about 15 people to help with the search committee.

Board chair Steve Love, who used Skype to attend the meeting, said he has had people contact him to be a part of the search committee, including administrators and Clyne.

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