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Summit School District: Superintendent search criteria established

Superintendent search firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates have completed its assessment of what the folks in Summit School District want in their new leader, and have used data gathered in December to help determine how they’ll select the new superintendent, who is slated to take office in July.

The replacement fills the shoes of Millie Hamner, who retired in December and who served as superintendent in the district for seven years. Board members have approved an interim contract with Karen Strakbein, who has been the assistant superintendent of business services and plans to return to that post in July. She’ll fill Hamner’s shoes from January until June.

Search firm associates Rick O’Connell and Ellen Bartlett met with 86 people in interviews, focus groups and open forums. They also compiled information from 70 online questionnaires to help give Summit School District Board of Education members a snapshot of the district. Information came from board members, administrators, faculty members, parents, community members and support staff, but they were unable to arrange a meeting with students for input.



The goal was to determine the district’s strengths and weaknesses as well as ideal traits and qualifications of a new leader.

“It’s not scientific, not quantitative, just a sample of the feedback given,” O’Connell said, though he explained that comments that were repeated were filtered out into a “consistently reported” category to give board members a picture of consensus items.



The report is to be made available on the search firm’s and school district’s websites for candidates to view and for Summit County residents to peruse.

The new superintendent should have a “proven track record of success, possess strong interpersonal and communication skills, establish high expectations, embrace a diverse community,” and be visible and approachable to all stakeholders, O’Connell said. The person should be “a charismatic leader with a vision and mission for developing 21st-century skills for students.”

He added the words, “dynamic,” “enthusiastic,” “able to develop trust,” and “willing to make a long-term commitment.”

But there’s no one person to fulfill all of these things, O’Connell said.

“We’re trying to find as many of these characteristics in the next man or woman to be superintendent,” he said.

He told board members that the results of the assessment and subsequent search criteria are similar to other districts, with one exception. The idea of the individual being culturally proficient and embracing of a diverse community doesn’t always pop up, O’Connell and Bartlett said. Nonetheless, O’Connell said that in his opinion, there’s nothing in the criteria that should scare applicants. Bartlett suggested that the board would have good candidates to choose from.

J Kent McHose said he felt the criteria was somewhat of a skeleton and lacked the search for a person with spark and passion for education.

He wanted it to go deeper – to find someone who aims toward excellence and bringing the district to a high level of performance.

“They should have academic inquisitiveness to know what’s going on” elsewhere in the state, country and world, McHose said.

The search firm associates and other board members suggested those criteria would come out in the interview process more so than the initial selection of candidates.

“You should be very, very proud of your staff … and of your board,” O’Connell said. “There are great things you’ve done and great things you’re working on … If you make a mistake in the future, it’s OK.”

As far as the district’s strengths, commonly listed answers included student achievement, strong leadership from the superintendent and board members, sound financial management, a wide range of academic and extracurricular activities, a staff that works for the children, consistent community support on ballot issues, and diversity of the community and student body.

Having a comprehensive strategic plan is ideal, interviewees said, and O’Connell noted that it’s engaging staff, administrators and parents and shouldn’t be changed in the near future.

Listed challenges included the technology improvements, advantages and disadvantages of the International Baccalaureate Program, and the budget, particularly in regards to staff salaries.

“They deserve what they get and more,” O’Connell said.

He added that though diversity is a strength, catering to all demographics is a challenge. The change in leadership is also seen as difficult, which isn’t unusual, O’Connell noted.

And one area of common concern was that the administration is heaping on too many new programs and initiatives for staff to handle.

“You should be careful not to add too many more,” O’Connell said.


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