Residents, school board share input in superintendent search

William Smith, a field service representative with Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), spent Thursday in Italy seeking the characteristics parents, residents, teachers, administration and staff are seeking in a school superintendent.

He concluded his day with the school board at a special meeting seeking their input as well as highlighting the day’s results. He said the school board needs to know what is being said in the community.

Smith said he spent 35 years in the Greenville ISD, starting as teacher and ending as superintendent. He now works as a TASB representative for 121 school districts in Texas.

He said he was impressed with the number of residents, parents, teachers and staff that took part in the discussion sessions held throughout the day.

He said currently there are 40 applicants who have started the online process for superintendent and said there will be more. He explained that this is well over what they expected for a district this size. He stressed the need for confidentiality among board members reminding them not to discuss candidate information with anyone outside the board, including their spouses.

A few strengths the board said they feel the district possesses include: tradition, fiscal responsibility, improved test scores, a core of young parents willing to get involved, extra-curricular activities such as band and athletics (including track), UIL participation, agriculture program, strong discipline in both schools, upgraded technology through the service center and openness to change if there is leadership that improves education.

Some of the school board concerns include: loss of student enrollment, administration turnover, college readiness/post high school preparations, communication between the superintendent and school board, team builder, diversity, intimidation, morale, desegregation and following the chain of command.

Smith reminded school board members that teachers, for example, should not go to school board members until they have gone through the proper chain of command. Parents, as well, should also go through the proper chain of command without necessarily bringing school board members into the mix.

He also said it was the superintendent’s job to hire the principals and teachers; with final approval from the school board. Smith said that it’s up to the school board to hire the superintendent.

Some of the characteristics the board is seeking in a new superintendent includes: trustworthiness, strong leadership, servant leader (leads by example), strong decision maker that will stand by decisions, someone able to make timely decisions, innovative, trend setter, involved in the community, a person of integrity, passionate and a goal setter. They also said someone with experience in a similar sized district would help and felt the candidate should relocate to Italy. Smith said the trustees could request a goal be that the staff mirror the student population.

He also said that he had heard the term micro-manage from every group he interviewed.

Smith said a superintendent needs to be able to stand up and board members need to accept recommendations. He said a few inside people could be saying things that cause problems. He also reminded them to discern a major issue from a minor problem and act accordingly.

He told the board that they are on the job to hold the superintendent accountable but not to do their job. He said TASB wants the district to find a good superintendent, while at the same time, making Italy ISD a better district.