Community members describe ideal school superintendent

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Stakeholders’ opinions will guide search for district’s new leader

By Daniel Laverty

Being a collaborator and understanding Jeffco’s diverse school district were just two qualities mentioned during community sessions held to gather input on the hiring of a school superintendent.

Ray and Associates facilitated 35 meetings last week with parents, teachers, students, business leaders and faith organizations to understand the priorities of the district’s stakeholders.

Last month, the Jeffco school board hired Ray and Associates to conduct the search for a new superintendent after former superintendent Cindy Stevenson departed Feb. 21.

The new superintendent will be offered a $280,000 salary — not including benefits — and the board hopes to have the position filled sometime in May.

Community input

Representatives from Ray and Associates held forums at the district’s headquarters and at neighborhood high schools. The goal? To find out what qualities the community seeks in its new educational leader.

“One thing that Dr. Stevenson stressed was ‘success for all,’ ” said Chris Ferguson, a Conifer High teacher. “Jeffco is a diverse community. I’d want to see someone who is positive about public education.”

An educational background that would shed light on the Jeffco district’s diverse population and economic differences was a must for teachers and parents.

“We need someone who can understand the differences between the mountain area and the other areas of our district,” one parent said. “I’d like to see someone who also supports our neighborhood schools.”

Conifer High principal Wesley Paxton said the new superintendent needs to understand what teachers and administrators struggle with in their daily work.

“I’d like to see someone who’s spent time in a classroom as a teacher,” Paxton said. “It allows that person to understand the diversity of the students we work with and the challenges we face on a daily basis.”

“It’s critical the candidate comes in and recognizes and builds upon the existing success and culture that exists here in Jeffco,” said parent Kristen Wheatley.

Many expressed a preference for “a good leader.”

“We need this person to be inspirational,” said Wendy Woodland, principal at West Jefferson Elementary.

“I think our district is moving in a really good direction, and I want to keep that going,” one parent said at the Dakota Ridge meeting.

Concerns over how the board will make the decision came up early and often.

“Has the board already made a decision?” one parent asked.

“No,” said Bill Newman of Ray and Associates. “We have not begun our search yet. We are in the process of forming the profile still.” He added that candidates will not be matched to the profile until it is complete.

“This is the most important decision a school board makes,” Newman said. “It’s in the best interest of the board to make a 5-0 decision. If you were a candidate and currently held a good job, would you want to move away and work with a 3-2 split board?”

Still a chance for input

An online survey at www.jeffcopublicschools.org provides an opportunity for community members to list qualities they’d like to see in the new superintendent. A space for comments is available at the end.

The survey will close at 5 p.m. March 28.

Representatives from Ray and Associates will present results from the survey and the community input sessions to the board at its next meeting April 3. The profile will be completed that night.

For more information, visit www.jeffcopublicschools.org.

Contact Daniel Laverty at 303-350-1042 or Daniel@evergreenco.com.  Follow Daniel on Twitter @LavertyReports.

Tentative superintendent search schedule

• Friday: Community survey closes at 5 p.m.

• April 3: Ray and Associates will present results from the survey and community input sessions to the board.

• April 25: Deadline for candidates to apply

May 9 and 10: Semifinalists interviewed

Week of May 12: Finalists interviewed