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Judging by last week’s spate of board meetings, committee meetings, and public hearings, the Los Alamos School Board’s search for a superintendent seems to be getting off to a good start.
In an effort to attract the best candidate, numerous meetings were held over the past several weeks in order to gauge public opinion on what the district should be looking for in its next superintendent. To make sure it received input from every sector of the community, the board had the chairs of the committees weigh in with the board.
At a school board meeting last week, at least members from two of those boards spoke about what their committees wanted in the next superintendent.
Bill Wadt, who chairs the board’s Community Leader Advisory Committee, spoke first at the meeting before the board, conveying several recommendations to the board on what the CLAC would like to see in Los Alamos’ next superintendent.
Wadt emphasized his committee valued experience over a Ph.D degree as one of the most essential requirements.
“As leaders in this community, we feel strongly that classroom teaching experience is essential, but a Ph.D isn’t,” he said to the board. Other recommendations he made is that the board hire a superintendent that makes children as well as teachers and staff members feel valued.
“That may be impossible to achieve, but it is a worthy goal,” Wadt said, adding that the next superintendent should be an “adept and skilled administrator of resources” as well as someone who is experienced at thriving within the arena of local,, state and federal politics.
“That’s necessary, so we can sustain and grow our reputation for national excellence, Wadt said. “We’re up high, but we want to go higher,” he said.
Ashley Mamula, from the Parent Advisory committee spoke after Wadt, commenting to the board that it was nice to see that their committee had a few of the same ideas as the CLA Committee.
Mamula said her committee would like to see a superintendent that applies equal emphasis to all aspects of student life, not just academics.
“We believe that placing a high value on a child’s academic, social, emotional, physical, and artistic interests as well as their overall well being, shows an understanding that every child has unique gifts that should be nurtured. This is just as important as state and national academic rankings”, she said to the board, adding that the board should also look for someone who is willing to “building an authentic partnership with staff, parents and the surrounding community.”
The board also organized held three town hall-style meetings where the general public added its input.
Sitting in with the board at the town hall meetings was a Stan Paz, a former superintendent from the El Paso, Texas school district. He was there in his capacity as a consultant for Ray and Associates, the search firm hired by the board to help in its search for the next superintendent.
At the first town hall meeting, Paz made clear what his role as well as his firm’s role was in the process.
“The firm has never hired one superintendent, never hired one, that is not our job” Paz said to the audience at the meeting.
“Our job is to do the work that the board asks us to do, and to bring back to the school board recommendation that will help it make its choice.”
In addition to meeting with the public at the town hall meetings, as well as the advisory committees, Paz also met with each of the five school board members individually.
“By the time I met with the fifth school board member this morning, I had a pretty good idea where the board is and what they’re looking for,” he said at the meeting. He also explained that he’s going to take what he learned from the school board, its six advisory committees and town hall meeting audiences and create a recruitment campaign around what the community wants to see in its next superintendent.
At the Chamisa meeting, Paz turned the tables a bit and instead of asking the audience about what they want in a superintendent, he asked them instead why should a candidate even apply.
“Help me recruit for this position,” he asked the audience. “The way you could help me is by answering a question that is immediately asked of me by someone I might approach (for the job of superintendent). And that is ‘What are the strengths of the school district? What makes Los Alamos so special that I would be interested in applying for the position?’ The audience, which was made up of teachers, staff and some parents, had some ready answers. They were:
1. High level of achievement and standards
2. Small town, close knit community
3. Involved parents
4. Quality teachers
5. Emphasis and priority on education
6. Beautiful location
7. Well-educated populace
8. A community that has more than 200 non-profit organizations
9. A community that values the arts
10. A safe community
11. Numerous opportunities for year round, indoor/outdoor, sporting and recreational activities for children and adults
12. Thriving arts community
13. Free public transit
14. Neighboring national parks
Many of the qualifications audience members wanted to see in their next superintendent reflected what school board members heard from their committees as well as the online survey the board posted on its website at laschools.net.
Those included a superintendent with experience teaching in the classroom and was adept at local and state politics.
Paz said their next step is to create a recruitment campaign around what the information gathered from the meetings and consults with the board.
One of the main recruitment tools will be a flyer that explains what Los Alamos is all about and what the community is looking for in a superintendent, Paz said.
“That flyer will be a culmination of that organic process,” he said, adding that that flyer will then be duplicated and given to Ray and Associates’ 160-member recruitment team.
For more information about the superintendent search, check out the Los Alamos Public Schools website at laschools.net and look in the left column of the page.