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Residents weigh in on criteria for next schools chief

Fri., Feb. 3, 2012, midnight

Forums come after talks with civic, public leaders

Only 24 Spokane residents attended two community forums to express their opinion about the desired qualities of the next Spokane Public Schools superintendent.

Nevertheless, the two recruiters hired by the district said they learned much about what the community wants. The national search for a new superintendent was launched earlier this month to replace Nancy Stowell, who is retiring June 30. The search firm hired by the district’s board, Illinois-based Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, led the community forums on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The recruiters – superintendents of school districts in Oregon and Illinois – also held 30 focus groups Wednesday and Thursday that included civic and public leaders, district employees, union leadership, board members, clergy, community leaders of color and students. Those meetings were closed. The recruiters will use all the input from this week’s sessions and compile a profile to begin looking for candidates that meet the criteria.

During the two community forums, Spokane residents made suggestions similar to those made by community leaders: the superintendent should be innovative, accessible, visible, have fresh eyes, collaborate, be a good communicator, and be an experienced educator and a motivator.

But a few new ideas emerged from Spokane residents, such as a person who will decentralize decisions and allow them to be made by building-level supervisors.

“Someone who wants decisions to be made as close to the grass roots as possible,” said Bob Griffing, a former school board candidate.

Spokane resident and district critic Laurie Rogers suggested recruiters consider how students do after they graduate in the potential candidates’ districts.

Other qualities Spokane residents considered important included taking a tougher stance on bullying. “I’d like to see someone who can create a fear-free zone,” said John Dixon, a Rogers High School alumnus.

Additionally, people want to see emphasis placed on parent participation, more technology integrated into learning, further improvements in the dropout rate, a person who is confident and someone with more of a business mind.

The district has “made progress, but I hope we can continue,” said Scott Jones, a district advocate and former levy committee chair.

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