July 13, 2012 in City

No break for schools chief

New superintendent seeking community input
By The Spokesman-Review
Tyler Tjomsland photoBuy this photo

New schools chief Shelley Redinger smiles as students at the Summer Aerospace Workshop talk about their experiences learning about aircraft Tuesday.
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Spokane Public Schools’ new superintendent is wasting no time getting to know the community.

Shelley Redinger took the position last week and already she’s met with Spokane’s mayor, police and fire chiefs, visited Spokane Community College’s aerospace program and attended a Spokane-area manufacturing summit, among other activities.

Redinger amped up her efforts this week, sending out 150 letters to community leaders and groups informing them of her desire to meet. The district is calling the push a “Semester of Listening and Learning.”

“I’m listening for what’s working really well, what’s good. We need to capitalize on that,” Redinger said. “I’m also listening for themes of what’s not working well. When I hear a theme, I like to get ahead of it. But I’m careful not to knee-jerk.”

Some of the groups she’s seeking to meet with are Daybreak of Spokane, Audubon Park Masonic Lodge, Black Ministers Alliance, Harbor Crest Senior Living, several business associations and all the Spokane neighborhood councils and community centers.

Additionally, Redinger will take requests for one-on-one meetings with parents, students, community members, staff members, district critics and higher-education leaders.

Already several people have called Redinger to take her up on the offer, said Terren Roloff, district spokeswoman.

Said Redinger, “I find that if people know you are approachable from the start, they keep coming back to you.”

Redinger replaced retiring Superintendent Nancy Stowell on July 1.

The 44-year-old is an Eastern Washington native who has held school or district leadership roles in Richland, Oregon and Virginia. She was named Spokane Public Schools superintendent earlier this year following a nationwide search.

With each new role, Redinger has made getting to know the community a priority.

“I don’t wait for them to come to me,” she said.

Redinger has not met with all the administrators, staff and faculty yet, since many of them are gone during July. But she said she believes hearing community concerns and ideas is as important as input from staff members.

Redinger said she doesn’t spend much time in the office: “If I just stayed at the district office, we’d all be blind to the problems.”

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