Archived Story

BOE holds work session Wednesday

Published 12:37pm Friday, November 30, 2012

The Alexander City Board of Education members met with a representative of the Alabama Association of School Boards Wednesday evening for a work session to discuss the search on which Alexander City Schools will soon embark for a new superintendent.

“I know you probably have mixed emotions at this time … people are usually like, ‘Oh no, now what?’” said Sally Howell, executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards. “But I want this to be a facilitated discussion to help come up with questions you need to answer. This isn’t about coming up with the answers right now – you might have inclinations, but this is to help you get your thinking cap on and facilitate that thought.”

Howell stressed the importance of board members being open and candid about what the school system needs from its new leader.

“Sometimes there is a hesitancy to talk about issues because you and your current superintendent have a good relationship,” Howell said. “But systems go through elements of change. Anything we talk about now is moving forward.”

Howell also encouraged members to look in the community as well as search other areas for a new superintendent.

“I urge you to consider going broad – just because you go for a search doesn’t mean you don’t have good candidates in town,” Howell said. “You have a unique opportunity on the school board to make this selection. You will get a good leader for your school system. If you make the wrong decision, it is very costly in terms of human capital, wear and tear on the system and perhaps financially.”

Howell said the community will take its cues from the attitudes of the board members regarding the search for a new superintendent.

“This should be an exciting, positive time,” Howell said.

Howell then asked board members to fill out a questionnaire that helped to reflect what board members feel is the most important quality of a new superintendent.

Board member Steve Robinson said the most important quality in his eyes is “being able to look beyond this year.”

“I think we need a vision of where the system is headed,” Robinson said. “There has been an annual plan, but I think that leads to getting caught in daily grind of decision-making.”

Board member Fred Norris said an important quality would be someone who can “raise the bar.”

“They need to prove they can excel in student achievement,” Norris said. “They need to be open-minded and a team player.”

Board President David Sturdivant said he wanted someone who would steer the system in a way to “make sure we’re not just testing as opposed to learning.”

Howell said board members should continue the discussion about the important aspects of a new superintendent in order to nail down the vital qualities needed.

“The whole goal of any selection process is finding a great match,” Howell said. “It’s easier to get a good match when there’s a consensus on the board. Whatever process you go through, at some point it’s going to be helpful to develop a profile of what you’re looking for. Ideally we want Superman or SuperWoman, but most people don’t excel at everything.”

Howell also reviewed methods of searching outside the system for candidates, the best ways to get community feedback, the interviewing process, the timing of the new hire and goal-setting for the new superintendent once he or she is selected.

“This is a lot to digest, but that’s why we wanted to invite (Howell) in so we could get it in front of us,” Sturdivant said. “There are things I hadn’t considered that (Howell) brought up that make good sense.”