Spokane Public Schools chief wish list outlined

SUNDAY, FEB. 19, 2012

Integrity, a sense of humor, honesty.

It’s not a dream date wish list. Those are just a few of the character traits community members want to see in the next Spokane Public Schools superintendent, according to recruiters.

Illinois-based Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates identified numerous desired characteristics for Spokane’s next schools chief after the recruiters reviewed 652 online surveys and spoke with more than 330 Spokane residents, community leaders and school employees in 32 focus groups.

Other wants include “an ability to lead others through a period of change, and commitment to personal goals.”

The ideal candidate also should be a good listener; be visible, accessible and communicative; appropriately balance centralized and decentralized approaches in addressing districtwide goals and expectations; and have a balanced, flexible, innovative approach to educational scenarios and proposals for improvement.

The next step: finding the right man or woman for the job. Recruiter Steve Humphrey thinks Spokane and its largest school district are an easy sell.

“I think it’s a great district,” Humphrey said. “The people I met are working on great things and they want to make it better. The staff wants to keep working hard and helping all students. The community wants a good school district and they want to help. And Spokane, I think it’s a place for a lot of opportunity.”

Recruiters are at the American Association of School Administrators conference in Houston this weekend, where they are talking to potential candidates for the Spokane job, Humphrey said.

“Some people I set interviews with previous to arriving,” he added. “Some people are just stopping by. A lot of our work is looking for people who we think are a good fit, and asking them if they’ve thought about Spokane.”

Typically, about two-thirds of the people considered are recruits and one-third are applicants, Humphrey said. By mid-March, recruiters will narrow down the pool to five or six semifinalists for Spokane Public Schools’ board of directors to consider.

Bob Douthitt, board president, said he’s unsure whether there will be any applicants from within Spokane Public Schools; however, “we told them (the recruiters) to treat any applicant from the district like any applicant from across the nation.”

In addition to the desired characteristics, school board members asked recruiters to look for candidates from similar-size districts with a few years of experience in administration.

School board members are still trying to decide on what salary to offer the right candidate.

Salary comparisons of superintendents in Washington, and across the nation, are being considered. Spokane’s cost of living, which is lower than that of Seattle or Tacoma, is also a factor, Douthitt said. “Because it’s a little bit more difficult to get someone to come to Spokane as compared to the Puget Sound area,” that’s part of the equation, too, he said.

“We are looking at it very carefully, with our main goal being what it will take to attract the right candidate to Spokane and not overspend,” Douthitt said.

Last but not least, the school board would like a candidate who wants to stick around a while, he said.

“Ideally someone who would expect to stay, and did stay for a long time; if they said 10 to 15 years, we’d be glad to have them. But we have to recognize that the average tenure is getting shorter and shorter.”

The finalists will be in Spokane in early April.

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