By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Parents, teachers and staff were largely in agreement at the stakeholders meeting concerning the search for a new superintendent for the Starkville School District Thursday — they want a superintendent who is a good communicator, is part of the community and will regain the public’s trust.
Harold Fischer, a representative of the Mississippi School Board Association, ran three separate hearings throughout the day — one for teachers, one for staff and administrators, and another for the general public. Attendees were welcome to give input on the criteria for the superintendent search.
School board members were not present at any of the hearings so responses would be anonymous and attendees could speak freely. Fischer will compile the responses into a report for the board.
During the public’s meeting, parents and community members expressed a desire for someone who would communicate well, both within the schools and throughout the community.
Kay Brocato said she wanted to see someone who could be a cheerleader for what the district does well, but also a critic who could recognize what needs to be changed.
“While we’ve had some really strong leadership in the district, what we’ve lacked is a real dynamic thinker. We want somebody who won’t settle for the status quo,” Brocato said. “We really need someone who will be a cheerleader for what we do well. But we need to that person to really critique what it is we’re not doing well because the same things that we’ve not been doing well since my daughter was in kindergarten, we’re still not doing well.”
Other people said they wanted someone who could delegate, work well with others and could accept critique. They said someone who could work with teachers, administrators and the public and include them in major decisions was important.
“I want somebody who is able to recognize talent and not be intimidated by talent, and use those resources,” Jennifer Davis said. “I want this person to not just surround themselves with ‘yes men’ but recognize other talented leaders and use them in that capacity.”
Leslie Fye said she wanted someone who could rebuild the community’s faith in the school district.
“We need someone who has experience and is really good at rebuilding morale,” Fye said. “When bridges of trust have been broken, we need someone that is effective at rebuilding them.”
While one attendee mentioned looking at Mississippi State University graduates who might be interested in returning to the community, another said she would prefer to see the board cast a wider net and find someone that can bring a fresh perspective. Fischer said MSBA would not be able to limit the search to MSU graduates — they would even accept applications from an Ole Miss graduate — and they would likely receive applicants from all over the country.
Regardless of where they come from, it was made clear the right person for the job would recognize the diversity of the district and be able to use that as an advantage.
According to Fischer, the teachers and staff had many of the same priorities as the community members.
“They had some of the same responses. They are very interested in a good communicator and somebody who will live in the district (and) be active in the district with their family,” he said. “There was an emphasis more toward the instructional program than the community, though they wanted someone who would become a part of the community. Everybody has said they want somebody to be a part of Starkville and that seems to be really important.”
MSBA will be accepting applications for the position from Sept. 12 to Oct. 31. The position will be advertised through the American Association of School Administrators, the National Alliance of Black School Educators and Education Week, a national publication that covers K-12 education.
Advertising with all three organizations will entail a single 30-day, online job posting and additional job-of-the-week styled options which will increase the advertisements’ exposure. The posting will also be advertised in Education Week’s eNewsletter.
Before a full advertising campaign begins, the board must give a final approval to the brochure and candidate characteristics.