Survey reveals priorities for superintendent search
by Emily Adams
SYLACAUGA – Results of an online survey revealed qualities the community would most like to see in its new Sylacauga City Schools superintendent.

The survey, conducted by the Alabama Association of School Boards, showed that the area of most importance to respondents is a superintendent with successful experience in leading a well-performing and aggressively improving system.

Close behind, in descending order, is experience in increasing student achievement, creating a positive employee environment, keeping the community involved and ensuring safe schools. The 352 respondents rated these areas between 4.73 and 4.62 on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being most important.

Also topping the list of desired qualities is experience in assessing curriculum and instruction, leading innovation, managing a large system with diverse enrollment and limited finances and serving as an instructional leader.

About 32.2 percent of respondents were parents of a current student; 31.3 percent were school employees; 19.3 percent were students, 16.4 percent were community members; and 0.9 percent were a parent of a current private or home school student.

The survey was done last month as part of the search to replace retiring Superintendent Renee Riggins, and results will be used in the applicant screening process, AASB representative Kendy Behrends explained at a called BOE meeting Friday morning. The position is scheduled to post March 12 with an April 17 deadline.

Further survey results showed that the most significant issue or challenge facing the new superintendent is maintaining a culture of trust and accountability. Other top issues, also in descending order, are maintaining and raising academic achievement, managing finances, recruiting and retaining talented employees and meeting the needs of high-performing students.

For education requirements, 76 percent of respondents agreed the superintendent should have a master’s degree, and only 36 percent felt a doctorate should be required. Fifty-four percent agreed some business experience is necessary.

Seventy-two percent felt the person for the job should have traditional education experience in Alabama. Forty-seven percent agreed they should be hired from outside the Sylacauga school system, while 37 percent were neutral. Also, 45 percent agreed the person should have experience as a superintendent elsewhere, while 55 percent were either neutral or disagreed with that statement.

Lastly, 198 survey respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the school system needs a leader with an entirely new vision; however, 218 agreed or strongly agreed the system should continue to implement planned reforms. One hundred fifty-eight people agreed or strongly agreed the system is generally headed in the right direction, while 112 were neutral and 74 disagreed or strongly disagreed.

The survey, as well as input from BOE members and other factors, will be used to determine the top five applicants that best meet the requested requirements. Selected applicants will be interviewed by the BOE in late April or May. The job will be posted online and is open to everyone, but the board members have asked that applicants from Alabama take priority.

The BOE will hold a called meeting March 11 at 4:30 p.m. at the Central Office to finalize the salary and other details of the job posting. Its next regular meeting is March 21 at 5:30 p.m. at the Central Office.

Also at Friday’s meeting, the BOE:

• Approved employment of John Wesson as instructional assistant at Indian Valley Elementary and leaves of absence for Alicia Walker, from April 25 through May 25, and Danielle Hilliard, from Feb. 19 to May 25.

• Approved a $79,830.65 bid from Innovation Network Systems for a voice-over IP phone system to be implemented in schools one at a time. The system, which uses the Internet to connect calls, is required for the Federal Communications Commission E-rate program, Technology Director Mike Robinson said.

• Amended its contract with the city for a second School Resource Officer position. The previously approved 3-year contract of $22,500 a year was changed to include an extra $8,800 for the first year for set up costs related to the position. Costs will include the purchase of an officer vehicle; however, the system is not permitted to pay directly on such property that it does not own.

• Held an executive session to discuss land acquisition.

• Noted that Board member Scott Stewart was absent.

Contact Emily Adams at eadams@dailyhome.com.

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