Kansas Association of School Boards representative Gary Sechrist visited USD 397April 1. He was hired by the school board to lead a search for a new superintendent. He solicited and compiled input from students, staff, and patrons on the qualities they are looking for in a new leader. The results were presented to the board of education in a special session that evening.
The most important superintendent qualities presented included a “student-first” attitude when making decisions, an effective communicator, a disciplinarian with students and staff alike, and a person who is open to new ideas. The candidate also needs to understand rural Kansas and be a problem solver.
The district’s strengths were listed as its technology, Centre Perk, and student activity groups, as well as being a supportive and close-knit community. The teachers noted that most of the staff are committed to the district long-term.
Stated critical needs included a more cohesive staff, better understanding of poverty, continued improvement in the music and visual arts departments, consideration of more than one administrator, and better communication throughout the district.
When asked to present the single most desirable characteristic, all agreed the candidate must have an understanding of rural Kansas and have budget expertise. They want the superintendent to have a strong personality who can stand up to the different factions in a widespread district and stand up for the right decision in spite of other opinions.
Patrons who attended the board meeting said a superintendent has to care about the students and needs to be a part of the community. Kim Shields said she is concerned about the kind of leader the board will hire to take Centre forward.
“We have a lot of challenges ahead of us,” she said.
Donna Walker, a para-educator in the middle school, said she wanted to hear what people in the district were looking for.
Sechrist said that he and the two superintendents who will help him in vetting candidates will use the information he received in making their selections for the board to consider.
As of April 1, there were 42 superintendent positions open across the state and not many candidates.
Sechrist said many superintendents are retiring, and principals who could replace them don’t want to deal with the budget issues school districts are facing.
The application process will end April 15. The names of potential candidates will be presented to the board at a special meeting April 21.
“There may be four, or there may be one,” Sechrist said.