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Lakeville Seeking 'Good Person' for Incoming School Superintendent

Search firm outlines list of attributes it will use to recruit candidates based on community feedback.

If all goes as planned, the Lakeville Area Public School District in place by August. And that superintendent will have high integrity and ethical values, be a strong communicator and have a strong understanding of district finances.

Those were some of the highlighted attributes brought out by a variety of area stakeholders during research conducted by recruiting specialists from . The firm was selected to lead the search for Dr. Gary Amoroso’s replacement last month and conducted an intensive day-long survey on June 2 in a number of meetings within the community.

SEC presented their findings to the school board during their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday evening. The company will utilize the findings from their research to recruit and select candidates for the school board to interview in the coming weeks. Initial interviews could consist of six or more candidates who fit the overall profile developed by SEC through the research.

During their research, SEC met individually with board members as well as groups of administrators, teachers and staff, community and business leaders and other members of the community. An open community meeting was also held at .  Bob Ostlund, the SEC associate that presented the findings to the board, said the meetings encompassed approximately 80 individuals in total. An online survey was also made available and received more than 350 responses, the large majority coming from parents within the district.

“We got some great input,” said Ostlund. “We utilized that input, and essentially all the comments that were made, and used that info to guide us” in developing the attributes. Ostlund said his firm will now concentrate on finding candidates with the following attributes to best match what research shows for the Lakeville schools.

The list of desired attributes includes:

  • Someone with excellent interpersonal skills with high integrity and ethical values. The candidate should be personable, approachable. “Basically, the candidate should generally be a good person,” said Ostlund.
  • An excellent communicator. Someone who can serve as a district spokesperson both internally and externally. “We noticed a lot of different perceptions on the same issues,” said Ostlund. “That’s not always a communication problem, but I think we can all agree on that good communication is a standard of leadership.”
  • Must have a strong understanding of school district financial issues. ”This is a critical issue for your district,” said Ostlund. “This was the number one response online.”
  • A visible and active leader in the schools and community. Someone who develops strong connections.
  • A collaborative consensus-builder. Someone who is capable of working with the staff and the community’s private sector in a transparent manner.
  • An experienced, goal-oriented visionary.
  • An instructional leader with expertise in best practices who is a passionate advocate for students and a strong proponent of high-quality music, art and athletics. ”There’s a lot of pride in those activities in Lakeville,” said Ostlund. “You need someone who is supportive of that.”
  • Brings extensive knowledge and experience in the utilization of technology. “It’s a priority in Lakeville,” said Ostlund. “The perception is that you are behind the norm for a district that seems like one of the best.”
  • Understands the value of economic, ethnic, and cultural diversity in an educational environment. “Your district is changing,” said Ostlund. “Most districts are. But you need someone who has experienced it and someone who sees that diversity as an asset.”
  • Brings a customer service focus to the internal and external interactions with the district. “The population that you serve put a high focus on customer service,” said Ostlund. “They expect it. It would be a real plus for your candidate to have a strong understanding of that focus.”

Ostlund said the list of attributes “weren’t necessarily” in order of importance, but were ranked from top to bottom. “Those are the attributes that are guiding us as we recruit for your district,” he said.

Other comments and insights revealed a picture of a divided school board with some internal struggles and board member Roz Peterson asked Ostlund if “board governance” would impact the search.

“There were lots of things in the feedback that talked about the board,” said Ostlund. “But those are things for you to wrestle with. A superintendent can be helpful in that area, but you as a board are going to have to address that.”

Ostlund said most districts go through ebbs and flows with their school boards and superintendents are aware of those fluctuations so he didn’t view it as a large negative in being able to attract a high-level candidate.

“I think it’s healthy for you to look at those things,” said Ostlund, “and take this transition time to focus on those.”

“I feel the information you gathered from all the stakeholders is invaluable,” said Peterson. “I do think we can learn a lot from that information.”

The board will select an initial round of candidates to interview by July 11. Interviews for finalists will take place July 19-21 and the public will also have a chance to interview the candidates during an open question and answer session.

July 21 is scheduled as the day for the board to make their final decision.

Tuesday was Amoroso’s last official board meeting before his retirement from the district. Board Chair Judy Keliher thanked him for his 10 years of service to the district.

“You’re career here has truly been a calling for you,” said Keliher. “You’ve brought a lot of stability to the district. You came at a time of physical growth and transformed that growth into high academic growth. That will be the legacy you leave.”

Jon June 16, 2011 at 11:45 AM
It goes without saying that the board would want to hire someone with ethics. Looking for a "good person"? How about looking for a great administrator first? As Mark Twain once wrote: " God made idiots first, that was for practice, then he made school boards."

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