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Board of education members discuss criteria for next superintendent

January 24, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY — Being a good leader and communicator are among the criteria Washington County Board of Education members noted as the most important for the school system’s next superintendent.

Board members were asked Monday what single criterion was the most important in the search for Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan’s replacement. Morgan is retiring from the school system Feb. 28, and board members want to have a new superintendent in line to take over with the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Board member Donna Brightman talked about effective leadership in leading the school system; in citing research and best practices; in identifying certain forms or reforms in leadership such as the role of the board versus the superintendent; and in financial leadership, she said.

With the school system’s budget issues and the tough economy, the school system needs someone with financial experience, she said.

“I would say a good communicator,” board member Paul Bailey said.

That includes developing good personal relationships with employees, he added.

New board member Karen Harshman said the next superintendent should be willing to listen to suggestions and information objectively before making major decisions, such as building new schools, redistricting or changing educational programs.

“I would hope that the new superintendent would make sure that every bit of information that people want to share is absorbed and understood before making a major decision about any educational process or choice,” Harshman said.

Harshman said she was referring to information from all stakeholders, including teachers, parents and businesspeople.

Board Vice President W. Edward Forrest said the most important criterion is knowledge about state and national education reforms.

For board member Justin Hartings, it’s about finding someone who is passionate about believing all children can learn and who understands the role a quality educational system plays in creating a thriving community.

There’s an intersection education has with business, with the community and with opportunity, Hartings said.

School Board President Wayne Ridenour said he didn’t think there was any one most-important criterion.

“For me, it’s a person that’s going to be able to continue positive momentum,” Ridenour said.

Board members will ask candidates many questions, but there needs to be a sense the person can work with staff and the community, with groups that help the school system, Ridenour said.

Board member Jacqueline Fischer said the ability to maintain the program and school choices Morgan helped create for children are important, as is financial savvy in facing tough economic times.

“I guess that’s going to be very tough to do. Maintain and not lose ground with what we’ve created while also addressing the shortcoming of funds,” Fischer said.

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