Weatherford Democrat

April 9, 2013

AISD trustees approve superintendent profile


Weatherford Democrat

— By JUDY SHERIDAN

Aledo ISD trustees voted Thursday to approve leadership qualifications and characteristics for a new superintendent.

Superintendent Dan Manning is retiring in June for health reasons.

Voting for approval were Board President Bobby Rigues and trustees Jay Stringer, Steve Bartley, Hoyt Harris, Johnny Campbell and Dr. David Tillman. Trustee David Davis was absent.

The traits — incorporated into nine statements — were gleaned from a four-question questionnaire administered by consultants from the Texas Association of School Boards. The questionnaire was made available through the district and on the Internet. Consultants also met March 28 in focus groups with faculty, students, community members and the school board.

Participants were asked to state the district’s most important strengths and concerns as well as the personal and professional characteristics the board should seek.

The efforts yielded 161 responses, 106 from the Internet.

TASB Field Services Representative Craig Stockstill, who answered trustees’ questions about the results of the questionnaire, said consultants felt they had “a pretty good sampling” of responses.

“Our objective for this questionnaire is to set up some qualifications and characteristics that we can use as we’re developing the interview process for your applicants,” he said.

“We’ll take this document you adopt and put it on our Internet application system, and each applicant will be expected to respond to each qualification and characteristic that’s listed, so you’ll get a good insight into their writing and their abilities to talk and articulate what you’re looking for in the district.”

Many of the characteristics in the statements adopted by the board were universal to good leaders, such as being visionary, having good communication skills, being active and visible and having good character.

Tillman asked that the list also include the adjective proactive.

More specific characteristics related to experience with rapidly growing districts, including strategic planning, bond financing and building construction.

Another desired attribute was that he or she make a long-term commitment to the district.

Stringer initially asked that a statement be added asking for a candidate’s views regarding the value of district accountability versus district values, as well as his or her views on professional development, then said he would cover it in the 90-minute interview process.

Administrators (17), teachers (3) and high school students (23) attending the focus groups emphasized having someone who is visible in the schools and approachable.

“Students need to know who is running the show,” one student said.  Others said the new top administrator should “be out and about,” “willing to get to know all students at all levels,” and “show up to school events.”

Administrators requested the new leader “fit in,” respect tradition and build relationships with community founders, while a community focus group (4) asked for someone with a different background and a new point of view.

School board members (6) expressed a preference for a candidate with superintendent experience who is successful and experienced with fast growth, bonds, construction and redistricting. They asked that he or she be “all in,” with transparency in people management and clarity in goal setting.

Trustees reflected concerns with growth, funding, legislation, safety, bullying and pathways in education through career and technology education.

Keeping up with technology in the classroom emerged as a consistent concern throughout, matched by a desired professional characteristic that the superintendent be “technologically savvy.”

Online responses came from 18 administrators, 38 faculty members, 34 community members, one other, 13 staff members and two students.

“In summary, the great thing about these qualifications and characteristics is that they’ve been born from the community, from staff, from the district — as well as the board — and is a reflection of our thoughts, collectively, together,” Rigues summarized before the vote.

“It becomes a basis of an application, and provides input by all applicants for them to share their thoughts regarding what we seek, and that becomes the beginning foundation of the process of interview.”

Tillman later asked about including an aptitude test for applicants, which Campbell and Rigues recalled talking about.

Stockstill said he didn’t know of any that fit the job description, but agreed to check with other TASB consultants.

“There are a lot of people who can pass aptitude tests that can’t be leaders, and you’re looking for a leader,” he said. “You’re not looking for the smartest person in the community, probably not the smartest person in the room, but you’re looking for somebody who understands, communicates, and can help you as a board develop a vision of growth and what you’re going to do — and turn those concerns you have into policies.”

The deadline for applications for candidates is April 17. A special board meeting is scheduled for April 23 to review the applications, with interviews set for May 7, 8 and 9.