Q&A: Summit school board 4-year candidates discuss their views on COVID-19 policies, the workforce shortage and hiring a new superintendent | SummitDaily.com

Q&A: Summit school board 4-year candidates discuss their views on COVID-19 policies, the workforce shortage and hiring a new superintendent

Toby Babich, clockwise from from top left, Pat Moser, Kim Langley, Johanna Kugler, Manuela Michaels, Lisa Webster and Chris Guarino are candidates for three four-year seats on the Summit School District Board of Education.

How will you address falling test scores and parent concerns that academics aren’t a priority?

My role as a school board member would be to listen to the challenges and concerns of the student and parent communities, build and examine a nuanced set of data and receive feedback from the teachers about what they would change to improve student experiences so that our kids could achieve to their fullest potential.

If we have even a small group of parents who believe this district does not make academics a priority, that should be considered a sign that we as a board need to pause, listen and prioritize the success of every child within their own learning environment so they are able to succeed within our programs. Quantitative data would certainly play a role in assessing our issues as a school district, but qualitative measures should guide our decision-making inclusive of both individual and group feedback loops to inform the direction of the district.

— Toby Babich

Parents are understandably concerned about the multiyear downward trend in test scores. The scores are unacceptable, and I was pleased interim Superintendent Roy Crawford bravely said so during a recent school board meeting.

For children who don’t meet the passing standards, we need to dig deep for reasons. I worry that often we accept the groupwide explanations such as: low socioeconomics, lack of English proficiency, transience, etc. While those issues can indeed be reasons why children struggle, in reality, the reasons are probably as varied as the individual children themselves.

To reverse the downward trend, the school board must commit to hiring a permanent superintendent who makes academics a priority and who sets high instructional expectations for the district’s staff. High expectations should also be set for the students. Decades of experience in education have shown me that children will almost always perform up to the standard that is expected of them. In order to focus on academics and restore trust, it’s best if schools exclude controversial personal, social and political causes from the classrooms.

If this downward academic trend continues, we are shortchanging our students by failing to prepare them for the competitive world that awaits them after graduation.

— Pat Moser

I’ve talked to many parents, and I stay involved in my kid’s school work, and it’s clear to me that there is not always a real focus on challenging them academically. I understand the impact of COVID-19, but based on the falling scores of the Colorado Measures of Academic Success test since 2017, it is obvious we can do much better.

I would make sure that all teacher curricula are focused on the class that they are teaching. Many times, my kids are doing projects or readings that have nothing to do with the class. I would require that all curricula are posted, including all secondary source material, so that parents know what is being taught. I would look at the most successful school districts to find best practices and curricula. I would also look at the classes that are being offered and make sure we are not spending too much time on electives that do not help kids academically. We’ve lost a couple of years due to COVID-19, and we were struggling before this pandemic. We need to simply make sure the board, administrators and teachers are all working to the same academic excellence goals.

— Manuela Michaels

I’ve seen the loss of billions of dollars’ worth of satellites, aircraft and airmen’s lives when engineers make a mistake. The right answer, the first time, is important. While this is an extreme example, it highlights my concern about lack of rigor and focus in our school system. We are falling behind our global competitors, and only 23.3% of Summit eighth graders are at math grade level. That’s down from 34.3% two years ago. Our country outsources technical jobs at an unprecedented rate, and there is a lack of craftsmen in almost every industry. Instead of correcting this, we seem to spend more and more energy on social issues and politics instead of basic math, science and technical skills.

To turn this around, I am meeting with chief academic officers to ensure I understand the challenges teachers face and how we can help them. I will work with these administrators and teachers to ensure they have the resources, guidance and academic focus to lift every child. Simply put, parents, students, teachers and administrators need to make academics a priority, find successful curricula, set and enforce high standards for everyone, and eliminate distractions.

— Kim Langley

Without a doubt, academics is a focus area for our district and community as laid out in the Summit School District Strategic Plan. From what I understand, our interim superintendent and his administration and staff are laser-focused on systems supporting student learning. They are scrubbing through processes to make sure they align with state and federal laws and policies and reflect data-based best practices. Our assessment team is implementing plans with realistic, targeted monthly goals, measurements for those goals, and proactive actions associated with achieved and/or missed goals. The district is restructuring professional learning communities to enable cross-functional flow of information at the teacher, building, department and district levels. Newer math and reading curriculum with intervention supports, as needed, continue to be used and introduced to improve student success.

That said, today’s public education system is more than academics. It is a system that is expected to create environments that allow the whole child to thrive. I understand our parents’ concern about academics, but I think the question should be, “Is our district doing the right things right now for our kids so they are successful when they leave our pre-K-12 system?” My answer to that question would be “yes.”

— Lisa Webster

Academics is a priority, but there is more work to be done. The administrative team is looking at: assessment, data analysis, curriculum development, instructional practice, professional development, International Baccalaureate, STEM, dual language and social-emotional learning. Since getting on the board, I have made it a priority to continuously remind ourselves that we should be highlighting academic success and areas for growth using language that reflects academics as part of a holistic view of the child and their school system.

The falling test scores are not being taken lightly. I am happy to see the schools working on the unified improvement plans. They are not sugar-coating scores or downplaying results due to the pandemic. They are looking at priority performance challenges, root causes to decreased scores, major improvement strategies, action steps and implementation benchmarks. This is hard and worthwhile work being done.

I am happy the district has begun implementing the new reading curriculum with coaches and high-level professional development. Research shows that continued development along with coaching helps with fidelity and true change with curriculum and practice. I hope the district will also find a way to implement math coaches and reintroduce Reading Buddy within classrooms to support one-on-one intervention.

— Johanna Kugler

First and foremost, we must work with our teachers and superintendent, not against them, to address these concerns. As board members, I believe we must focus on policies as a priority along with recruiting and retaining excellent staff to execute those policies. I strongly believe that our policies must look at how we as a district approach the testing means and methods. But we also must step back and take a deeper dive, looking at the whole picture.

Our students and teachers are so much more than standardized test scores. The world is rapidly evolving, and cranking out testing subjects like a factory severely misses the point. We need to expand our student and teacher evaluations to appreciate everything our students will face when they leave our schools. How prepared are they for life itself? How are we looking at mental health? Job preparedness? Socioeconomic pressures? We need to recognize that not every student will be a tech entrepreneur or brain surgeon, so let’s focus on career technical education training as well as textbooks and standardized tests and find the best path forward to give all students many options to prepare them for whatever they choose to pursue in life.

— Chris Guarino

Do you support the school district’s new equity policy? If yes, how will you work to implement it? If no, why not?

Every student deserves equality of opportunity. I do, however, have concerns about the current policy.

The policy’s definition of equity is vague, and the policy lacks guidelines for implementation. With such ambiguity, I worry that implementation is dependent upon teachers’ various interpretations of the policy. When creating this policy, the current board was seemingly unconcerned about how it would be implemented and how consistency would be maintained across the district.

Additionally, at the virtual board meeting in May, I witnessed the current board ignore numerous community members wishing to voice their opinions on the proposal. For a policy that is meant to promote equal access, it seems ironic that the board prematurely ended the meeting rather than spending the necessary time hearing from community members. Only a handful of residents were given the opportunity to speak before the board unanimously passed the policy. While equity is certainly important, there was no urgency to vote that night. If more time was needed, the current board should have temporarily postponed the vote. In the five months since passage, the board hasn’t provided transparency regarding specific guidelines to implement this policy.

— Pat Moser

As an immigrant, I have found America and Americans extremely supportive and generous. I believe in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s premise that we must judge on a person’s character and not by the color of their skin. In Brazil, where our “king of soccer” is Pele, we also live by this premise.

The district’s equity policy was not reviewed very well with parents, and it needs to be more clear how it will be implemented. It’s not even clear what is meant by “equity.” The policy seems to measure equity by looking at white kids’ over-participation in sports and advanced classes. To me, equity is not outcomes; it’s every kid having the fair opportunity to learn to read, write and do arithmetic. We should have real standards, not race standards.

I would update the policy to make it less controversial and to make sure it actually helps any kid who is struggling or doesn’t have access to a quality education. If there are real racial problems, we should identify them, hold people accountable and address them.

I see this country as the United States, not the divided states. We must respect one another because we are all created equal.

— Manuela Michaels

To me, equity is simply fairness of opportunity for all. However, the equity policy seems a bit lazy because it only blames the challenges with minority achievement on systemic racism. There is so much more to it than this, but it takes hard work and outreach to figure out what is going on. That information should be in the equity policy. We know we have an academic challenge with the high number of English as a second language students. You would expect this. We need real solutions.

More specifically, I would modify the policy to clearly define what is meant by equity, eliminate the divisive language, identify the actual issues our minority community is facing, and provide resources and an implementation plan to lift these valuable members of Summit County.

There are other serious issues of equity that we need to look at. Until recently, I had no idea how many kids we have with learning disabilities. It seems like this is a big concern that nobody is talking about as an equity issue.

— Kim Langley

Equity is essential so all students receive resources needed for successful pre-K-12 education careers. Our Summit School District Strategic Plan formalizes this intent. Our superintendent is charged with operationalizing district policies. His “every child, every day” mantra addresses equity at different levels: basic, mental health and academic needs, and addressing root causes versus treating symptoms. These levels don’t work independent of each other, rather they are entwined. This approach also allows for flexibility given demographic changes that occur over time.

Equity isn’t a new concept at the state or federal levels. Equity work started long ago with various federal laws that provide supplemental funding to eliminate educational barriers, such as poverty or racial inequality: Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965), No Child Left Behind (2001), Every Student Succeeds Act (2015).

Equity isn’t a new concept in the district, either. Local initiatives like pre-collegiate (first generation college students), cultural proficiency, equal access, concurrent classes and the Keystone Science School CATCH program were put in place to help our kids while addressing various inequities.

Bottom line, every student deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential. We have advanced, but we still have work to do to make that goal a reality.

— Lisa Webster

The school district’s equity policy was worked on in a collaborative effort by students, parents, community partners, staff and leadership team. This process took time and asked for continual feedback. At my core, I support work that provides access for every child to receive the tools, resources and supports they need to succeed. In education, that is our job. I will look to the team of experts to guide our school through the work with continued program evaluation, assessment, benchmarks and feedback.

— Johanna Kugler

Absolutely, yes. There is so much misinformation, fearmongering and, I believe, lies about what our equity policy means. Selfishly, I want our community to thrive forever, and this means that every student who comes through our hallways needs to have the opportunity to thrive so they can ultimately be the best and most productive citizen they can be. This will benefit all of us. A rising tide can raise all ships. Providing equitable systems does not mean holding anyone back so the others can catch up; it means ensuring everyone has an equal footing to pursue their dreams whatever they may be. To implement this I believe it means we must frequently take that deeper dive and look at what the opportunities are for all when we take certain actions. If we ever go remote again, we can’t just hand out laptops and other devices to check the box. We have to make sure our kids have reliable access to the internet. When we create after-school programs or activities to help our working families, we have to make sure all students have the ability to get home afterward if they don’t take their regular bus.

— Chris Guarino

I think the first issue we have is that the polarizing national debate, summed up in the word equity, is distracting our district from actually doing the work of providing our most disadvantaged and struggling students with the tools they need to find a new path toward achievement. As a child in Summit School District, I was a struggling student with a single parent and very little support for my academic needs. I understand very well that every child learns in their own unique way, and every child needs a different kind of support. The debate over the policy has eclipsed the purpose of what we should be doing as a district, which is critically assessing the unique needs of every student of the district and applying resources to each of our children that will allow them the best path to success. Reading the policy, the content is a bit esoteric and nebulous, and I would imagine many parents in the district would rather look at data and needs, and would encourage our district to provide the needed support to students who require additional resources and tools.

— Toby Babich

Parents continue to be concerned about COVID-19 protocols in schools. Where do you stand on in-person learning, masking and vaccines?

I understand we have many different opinions in the community about vaccines, masks, etc. It is a tough issue with no perfect answer, and hopefully it gets resolved soon. I am not a medical professional by any means, but I think we must look at the COVID-19 data for the county on a regular basis so we can decide, along with the medical community and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a point in time when we can take the masks off.

My main concern is that we keep kids in school five days a week because kids struggle with remote learning and it is an incredible burden to parents. I also want my kids to see their friends’ faces at school again as soon as it’s safe. It will be such a wonderful day!

— Manuela Michaels

This pandemic is personal to me. I’ve had an aunt and a close friend’s father die from COVID-19. Another friend spent 30 days in the ICU and will likely be debilitated for life. I worry about my parents every day. Luckily, it seems like kids are mostly being spared from the most dire outcomes.

Whatever we do, full-time, in-school learning needs to be the goal. Kids fail at home, parents are overburdened, and kids who were already struggling are affected the most. We need to establish firm criteria, based on data, for when masking can end. The board members are not medical experts, and future masking and vaccination mandates should be highly influenced by the medical community.

The board’s role should be to make sure that any recommendation is following sound scientific advice and not politics. I would like to understand how schools that don’t mandate masking and vaccines are faring versus those that do. Unfortunately, in our overly polarized environment, it is sometimes difficult to tell what is real science/data and what is politics. I also believe that we need to use common sense in decision-making when it comes to our kids.

— Kim Langley

Current Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data reveals that districts that chose to mask versus districts that didn’t have been more successful maintaining in-person learning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state health department and American Academy of Pediatrics-recommended precautions like masking, disinfecting surfaces and good hygienic practices make in-person learning available as our nation continues to navigate COVID-19.

My hope is the age eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine will continue to expand to include our younger elementary students and that families are willing to participate. Until then, we need adults who maintain close proximity with children/students to vaccinate to help shield our kids in schools, at work, at home and in public.

I am not an infectious disease expert. The school board is responsible for keeping our learning community safe. These are the most accessible tools we have to meet the current need, but I hope to resume the personal and educational benefits of being mask free.

— Lisa Webster

Parents should always have access to voice concerns and be an active participation in their student’s education. I would encourage parents to continue to advocate for their families’ situations and needs.

I am extremely grateful that our children have access to five days per week in-person care and that is a school district priority. This school year, masking has allowed our children to remain in person with significantly less group quarantine and uninterrupted learning because only the sick child/staff member is quarantined. Yes, there are negatives and positives for wearing masks, but the positive allows children to be in person, socially engaged, participating in sports and extracurricular activities and riding buses, and it allows parents to partake in the community and/or workforce.

The district’s goal is to have our children learning at school. I am grateful it is giving more pathways for individual families to access learning depending on their needs, comfort and desires. The district has gone through accreditation for online learning so each family can choose its path for success. Our process is continuously asking us to give feedback, look at statistics and weigh out options with the goal of keeping children in an education setting moving forward.

— Johanna Kugler

I am not a scientist, so I believe the experts. First and foremost, this means that in-person learning is critical to our student’s development. Frankly — although we do have our bus route challenges, which lead to inequity for some — I believe in-person learning is a strong step toward providing equity for all students. Not everyone has reliable internet at home or parents who have the option to stay home and help, so I am a major advocate for keeping the doors open for in-person learning.

With regard to masking, I understand and respect this creates some uncomfortable situations, but simply put, I believe in doing what is best for the greater good of our community and society, and I stand with the mask requirements to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. I also believe the sooner everyone who is eligible to get the vaccine gets it, the sooner we can stop wearing masks. The evidence shows us that the more vaccinated we are, the less susceptible we are to the virus and the closer we are to moving past mandates. No one wants to keep wearing masks, so let’s work together to get past it!

— Chris Guarino

As a parent, I too am concerned with the potential for the spread of COVID-19 in our classrooms, and the detrimental impacts of remote learning and prolonged mask-wearing. I would like to see our students out of masks as quickly as possible, while maintaining consistent in-person learning, and reducing the transmission of COVID-19 within our facilities to the extent possible.

Since March 2020, I have worked closely with our public health department to encourage safety and continued functioning of our local community and economy as a member of several recovery committees. The balance between going back to normal and ensuring that we remain vigilant to prevent additional hospitalizations or worse is it very delicate. I would want our board of directors and district to look at this balance daily, and take measured and strategic steps to roll back safety precautions that can have a detrimental impact on our students based on data targets that we define as critical steps on the road to normalization. It would be wonderful for our district to set a target of either cases within the district or within the county that we could look forward to as potential benchmarks to roll back safety precautions.

— Toby Babich

Of course, parents are concerned about COVID-19 and its impact on their children’s health and education. Our goal should be to do whatever it takes to keep our children safe with in-person learning. If research and data support that wearing masks is the key to achieving that goal, then masks are what we need to require.

I wonder, though, whether the decision-makers are considering the data that shows the social, emotional, developmental and physical tolls that masks take on our children.

Furthermore, a metric should be established and communicated to the parents that answers this question: When can the masks come off? Without that metric, it seems that the length of time our children must wear masks is arbitrary. We must not allow politics to creep into masking decisions; rather, those decisions should be medically based and data driven. We can’t allow masks to become an indefinite “new normal.” Our children are counting on us to make wise decisions on their behalf.

— Pat Moser

How will you work to address the district’s staffing issues, including everything from teacher retention to hiring bus drivers?

We would ensure our teachers, bus drivers, cooks, janitors, administrators and substitutes are paid competitively. I would ensure wages are a priority in the budget and look at creative ways to expand our pool of teachers. Recent policy has limited teacher recruiting to those who “demonstrate a strong understanding of equity literacy” and those who commit to “social justice.” I would hire based solely on academic competency.

I talked to teachers, principals and bus drivers. Unsurprisingly, the common concern is pay and housing. I would continue this outreach to find other quality-of-life issues. Bus drivers identified that a $500 bonus offered is not available to all bus drivers due to various reasons. This is an easy fix. We need to look at myriad small incentives like this to retain these dedicated employees.

Housing will always be the elephant in the room, but we need to start finding long-term solutions including the feasibility of building teacher housing on district land. It would be best if teachers didn’t have to live in other counties, work second jobs or be packed into small apartments. Our kids need them at their best, and it’s simply the right thing to do.

— Kim Langley

Pay and benefits: Our community values education; it’s the foundation for stronger communities. For our kids to be successful, they need to show up at classrooms ready to learn. On the flip side, we need our teachers/staff to show up and be present without insecurities of housing, child care, mental health and health care. Federal, state and local conversations — such as Senate Bill 20-089, Educator Pay Raise Fund — around educator recruitment, retention and sustainment have been ongoing for years without a fiscal solution yet. That conversation also expanded to support staff such as bus drivers.

Culture: One of our principals always says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” meaning the best planning falls apart when there isn’t a healthy culture of mutual respect, trust, integrity, collaboration and vulnerability. Another leader says these cultural components are “foundational nonnegotiables.” In the military, I held many jobs and culture, driven by leadership, was at the root of satisfaction. How we treat, empower and celebrate people ranks pretty high alongside a living wage.

Being part of a public school system takes much heart and sacrifice. When we truly understand, value and support this ideal, we give power to that strength.

— Lisa Webster

Summit School District is not alone in the bus driver shortage issues; this is a national issue. I am glad the district has taken the time to increase the wages of our bus drivers and recognize the hard work that they do. If we were to raise the amount of pay exponentially, there would be other side-effects, too: Where does the money come from to sustain that high level of pay from the tight school district budget, and did we just take away from the county, private and independent shuttles who are providing revenue from tourism and local transportation? Conversations with the county as well as nonprofit- and private-sector partners should continue while looking to other districts for ideas.

Before the pandemic, there was already a teacher shortage nationally. Recruitment and retention is a key factor to sustaining quality education. I am happy the district evaluated the market rate to bring pay to match the survey results. Pay is not the only factor for teachers entering and staying in the field. Pay, morale, work-life balance, support, growth opportunity, encouragement and peer friendship are also factors. The district should constantly evaluate what it can and should participate in, such as housing.

— Johanna Kugler

Respecting that our budgets are limited and we have to fit a million pounds of priorities into a 10-pound basket on an annual basis, we have to take a hard look at our budgets and find a way to increase staff salaries to be as competitive as possible. We must focus on recruiting and retaining amazing teachers and support staff, and this will continue to grow more difficult if we don’t offer attractive salaries and benefits that allow a livable wage to sustain a life and family here in Summit County. I prefer our teachers don’t have to hold multiple jobs in order to pay rent or a mortgage payment. I want to pay them a comfortable wage so they can focus on curriculum and teaching rather than working exhaustive hours at multiple jobs or sharing housing with multiple roommates, which can be quite distracting, just to make ends meet.

Additionally I believe we must get into the affordable housing game. I don’t think the district should become a housing developer, but we must engage in local partnerships with the towns and county to use the land and assets we have to begin to provide housing solutions for our staff.

— Chris Guarino

Workforce and staffing issues are not concentrated to Summit County, existing statewide and nationally, as well. Our challenges are the challenges of the entire nation, and many of the factors that would assist in correcting course are out of our control. But we do have control over providing competitive and attractive compensation packages as well as the ability for our teachers to locate and retain housing so they are able to put roots down as a member of this community.

I believe we need to look at increasing our teachers’ salaries and overall compensation to fund their ability to retain housing, potentially by partnering with municipalities or the county to provide revenue streams for teacher housing and partnerships within purpose-built workforce housing developments for our almost 600 staff members. The ability to attract and retain teachers here falls within these two fundamental principles: pay them well and encourage their integration into our community with viable and available housing options.

— Toby Babich

Teacher turnover is an urgent issue. With year-to-year inconsistency on our school staff, challenges arise regarding instruction and morale. The time that principals spend continually hiring and mentoring new teachers diminishes time that could be spent on instructional improvement efforts.

Why do teachers leave and why do prospective teachers decline our offers of employment? Let’s ask them and really listen to their answers. Inadequate pay will naturally be a common response, but what else is driving the hiring and retention challenge? It’s time to ask some hard questions.

After my numerous discussions with teachers, bus drivers and support staff, it seems that understaffing problems exist districtwide except in the central office. I’ve often heard the phrase “top heavy” when they refer to districtwide staffing. We need to streamline the central office over the next few years and perhaps restructure if current staffing levels are not effectively supporting teachers.

— Pat Moser

Retaining teachers and bus drivers is one of my very top concerns. Keeping our great teachers and making life easier for them is important for them and for our kids’ education. Getting kids safely to school is super important also.

I have already met with nine bus drivers and many teachers and had great conversations. The main issue for both seems to be pay, but there are other quality-of-life issues that we need to address in the long term. If keeping teachers and having drivers is important to this community, we need to find the money to pay them competitively. That’s what we’ll do. The budget and spending needs to be scrubbed to find more money.

A tougher part of teacher turnover is that many teachers leave after about three years to start a family and buy a house. Is there a way to recruit more established teachers or to better deal with turnover? Can we find some solutions for housing? These are tough issues that we will look at, but unfortunately the main way to help short term is to find more pay and better benefits.

— Manuela Michaels

If elected, you’ll sit on the board that selects the next superintendent. What specifically are you looking for in that position?

Selecting a superintendent is the most important job of the school board because the superintendent is the driving force to ensure student success. District policy lays out the recruitment process. Because the district values different voices (student, staff, family, community), we will send out requests for feedback on desired values/characteristics of this leadership role. This process informs lessons learned, updates short-term district goals we aspire to and looks at alignment with the district Strategic Plan.

Inevitably, leadership traits that tend to come forward include vision, integrity, equity, empathy, communication, accountability and adaptability — all great qualities. In the military, the leaders I loved working for possessed those qualities and were willing to put themselves at risk for others. It wasn’t about being in charge but caring for the people in your charge, as Simon Sinek would say. These same leaders tended to create environments where people could make mistakes, feel safe asking for help, be inspired to grow personally and professionally, know they didn’t have to “check your six” and leave a place better than they found it.

We need a superintendent that has these leadership qualities and the ability to adapt these qualities to our students’ and staff’s needs.

— Lisa Webster

Going through the process of looking for the next superintendent will be challenging and rewarding. There will need to be listening from teachers, support staff, administrators, parents, children and community partners. Yes, the board of education is an elected position that represents constituents, but members are not the only ones providing input in hiring the next superintendent. I am excited to take part in that process, to listen, engage and reassess where our district is and wants to go when that time comes. I don’t have a picture of that superintendent in my mind, rather I have a desire to pick the best candidate to meet our school district’s needs and lead us in that direction.

— Johanna Kugler

We need a consensus builder, an active listener, a transparent communicator, a leader and someone who understands the unique environment we all call home here in Summit County. We would benefit from having someone who knows education, someone who appreciates our desire to develop and ensure equitable systems for all, and someone who leans into difficult situations and conversations with a strong belief system that focuses on making the best of situations that may arise.

I would desire an open door for our community with someone who is accessible and easy to communicate with, someone we can all trust who builds relationships with our principals, staff, board and community. It would be ideal to find someone who shares the vision of determining teacher and student success by evaluating the entire picture and not just focusing on teaching to the test or other outdated approaches to education. We need someone who considers the future while acknowledging our past. We need someone who respects the value of career and technical education as well as STEM and the arts. We need someone who will work with our board to take thoughtful and respectful approaches to everything we do as a district.

— Chris Guarino

Summit County is a very unique population and even more unique area to call home. Our community includes a variety of constituencies and social elements that must be taken into account in the context of education. The superintendent for this district must have an understanding of our specific constituencies and, more importantly an understanding of how to bring everyone together as a collaborative combination of students, parents and teachers who are all working together to encourage and provide the children of our district with every opportunity we can muster.

I would also expect the superintendent to be relatable, approachable, engaging and a genuinely caring and empathetic soul that would be able to navigate the complexities of the social dynamics within this community. Overall, I think we all know our community lacks pretense and is a very personal and engaging community, and our superintendent should be willing, able and comfortable stepping into that world as a fundamental component of the educational fabric of our district.

— Toby Babich

Hopefully, the board will unanimously agree that it’s imperative to hire a superintendent with a proven record of academic improvement. It’s crucial to keep politics and personal agendas out of the search and hiring process in order to focus on our children’s instructional needs.

Secondly, we must hire a superintendent with a reputation for being an outstanding listener. In every school district, numerous individuals and groups understandably have a stake in our children’s success. These people need to be listened to so they don’t feel disenfranchised as many currently do. While it is impossible to please everyone, all citizens should be respectfully heard.

Fiscal responsibility is critical, as well. Where can funds that are currently spent on non-instructional expenditures be redirected toward academics? This will require asking tough questions, listening to sometimes painful answers, and then stepping up with solutions that directly serve our children’s education.

Finally, our new superintendent should set clear expectations and insist upon accountability for all staff members, including himself/herself. When we find and hire that person, we will be well on our way toward having the outstanding educational program that everyone in Summit County deserves.

— Pat Moser

Summit School District conducted a survey in 2020 when it asked parents, students and teachers what they are looking for in the next superintendent. The answer was clear that the next superintendent must be approachable, interpersonal, a good communicator and a person who is focused on academics. For some reason, they chose a superintendent that had none of these characteristics but had an agenda. I would look at that survey again and do what parents, students and teachers asked for.

— Manuela Michaels

In 2020, a survey was commissioned by Summit School District to determine what parents, teachers, students and community members were looking for in a superintendent. I reviewed that document, and what parents were primarily looking for was someone who is an approachable, interpersonal leader who was focused on academics with a proven record of success. This aligns very well with our priorities, and we should give parents what they asked for two years ago.

— Kim Langley

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