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A small group driven by a desire to find and hire the best possible person for superintendent of Los Alamos Public Schools gathered at Aspen Elementary School Monday evening. Invited by school board members, parents and residents provided input on recruitment and selection of the district’s top administrator during the meeting. “What do you believe is the most significant challenge the next superintendent will need to address in the next three years?” longtime LAPS facilitator Brian Cooke asked the audience of some 15 people. Some responses focused on funding – whether from DOE assistance payments, Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation funding, leases within the county or similar sources.Other challenges suggested were aging infrastructures, maintaining and rebuilding school structures, upgrading infrastructures, and funding to renovate current facilities or to construct new ones.“What do you believe the one or two most significant qualifications or aspects of experience your school board members should be looking for when interviewing and selecting the next superintendent?” Cooke asked.Audience members suggested board members look for a person who possesses the following:• An excellent track record in leadership and longevity;• a proven track record in strong leadership;• demonstrated success at leading a large school or school district to improved performance;• knowledge of current education issues;• the ability to be an advocate for students and for the schools;• the ability to be proactive in representing the district with legislators, teachers, community leaders and parents;• the ability to address site-managed schools and central office based administration;• good listening skills;• union experience and respect and support for the union; and• intelligence, credibility, honesty, consistency, firmness and commitment.Cooke also asked audience members what one additional consideration they would like school board members to consider to assure Los Alamos successfully recruits and hires a “truly excellent superintendent.”Responses include wanting a diplomat who is experienced working with the Public Education Department as well as with state and federal representatives. Audience members also suggested a person who values youth above all else, has personal integrity, who works well with teachers and staff, and is well-respected by teachers, parents, students and the public.Parent and community member Barbara Phelps attended the meeting and described the audience as “well-prepared.”“We appreciate the school board seeking public input,” Phelps said. “We were a little anxious that our meeting came after the first of the year but feel we are still in time to have our input considered. This is a wonderful opportunity for Los Alamos because it’s been a long time since a new leader has been selected.”While community members recognize Los Alamos schools are good, Phelps said parents and community members would like to see the district move forward with research and evidence based learning. “We’d like to see someone selected who will bring new and creative ideas to improve our schools and move us forward,” she said. “And we want our new superintendent to help retain our excellent staff and attract quality new staff and resources.”Phelps mentioned a concern some people have about whether the advertised starting salary of $130,000 will attract an experienced and well-qualified person. “We told school board members we hoped if a stellar applicant responded with exceptional expertise that they would increase the salary accordingly,” she said.Audience members describe LAPS as one of the best school systems in the nation and want to be sure the search will be extended or re-opened if needed to find the “right” person for this district. They called the superintendent vacancy “an opportunity of a lifetime for candidates.”Superintendent Jim Anderson’s official retirement is Aug. 1; however his last day at work is in June.To guide the search process to find his replacement, the school board is working with consultant Wesley Lane. They also have formed a screening committee of some 30 members who will review applications to identify those candidates to be interviewed by the board. The committee represents all school sites and departments, as well as the community. Information from Monday’s meeting and other public input will be used to guide the work of the screening committee as well as the board.The position is currently being advertised across the country. The deadline for submitting applications is Feb. 15. The board has set a timeline to allow them to hire a new superintendent in late March or early April.The next public meeting of the superintendent search committee will be announced in the Monitor as soon as the information is available.