The search for a
new Duneland Schools superintendent is underway, and as part of that search
the School Board’s contracted recruitment consultant, BWP & Associates, held
a public outreach meeting Tuesday in the Chesterton Middle School
The purpose of the
meeting: to glean information on the community’s educational priorities,
what folks perceive to be the system’s strengths as well as the challenges
it faces going forward, and their preferences for the sort of person who
should get the nod.
In fact the meeting
needn’t have been held in the auditorium. A classroom would have done just
as well: two hours before a lake-effect snow warning was to go into effect,
only seven people attended, one of them a Chesterton Tribune
reporter, another School Board President Kristin Kroeger.
Ron Barnes and Anne
Noland of BWP pressed forward regardless, beginning the session by
enunciating their and the School Board’s particular goal: to hire a
superintendent with legs, in it for the long haul, who will remain with the
Duneland Schools for 10 to 15 years.
BWP has begun by
advertising the position--both statewide and nationwide--in several
professional publications, Noland said: the American Association of School
Administrators’ School Administrator monthly, for instance, and in
Education Week. As of Tuesday, BWP has received 20 applications; Barnes
guessed that in the end another 12 or 15 will probably be submitted.
are going directly to BWP, not to the School Board, Barnes said. Of those
applications Barnes noted two things. First, they’ll all be treated equally.
“All candidates who apply will be evaluated by the same criteria,” he said.
Second, they’ll all
be treated confidentially. “This is a private search throughout,” Barnes
observed, inasmuch as school administrators are no different from any other
employed persons looking for a new job: it’s not in those persons’ best
interests for their employers to know they’re looking for greener fields.
Once BWP is in
possession of a final pool of applications, the firm will begin vetting
them, using the data and criteria gathered from a number of stakeholder
sessions--like Tuesday evening’s--to choose 10 to 15 candidates with whom to
have face-to-face interviews. From those 10 to 15 BWP will then present a
short-list of approximately six candidates to the School Board.
things could happen at this point. As Kroeger noted, the School Board could
quickly reach a unanimous decision on one of the six on the short-list. Or,
instead, the School Board could opt to further winnow the six to a couple or
three finalists. If the latter, a stakeholder committee will be formed
and--working in confidence, its members agreeing to sign a non-disclosure
document--will assess the finalists for best fit. The committee will then
report its “impressions” to the School Board, Barnes said, and on the basis
of those impressions the School Board will make its final decision.
After an offer is
made and accepted, the successful candidate will meet with the School Board
in a retreat, at which together they’ll “flesh out” four to five priorities
to be pursued by the new superintendent in his or her first year. Those
priorities will become the “template,” Barnes said, for evaluating the new
super’s ongoing performance.
In order to
short-list, winnow, and evaluate candidates, however, BWP is looking to
compile a body of “data,” as Barnes put it, capable of defining the
community’s attitudes toward the school system and its administration.
Tuesday’s meeting at CMS was, in fact, the last one in a day which, Noland
said, began around 6 a.m. Throughout the day she and Barnes met with all
five members of the School Board, individually; with representatives of the
Duneland Chamber of Commerce; and with both teacher and student
To each of the
day’s focus groups Noland and Barnes put these questions: what are the
strengths of the Duneland Schools? What challenges does the system face
going forward? and what special traits or skills or characteristics do you
want to see in the successful candidate?
Guided by Barnes,
the handful of attendees offered these views:
strengths: athletics; speech and debate and other academic extracurriculars;
“breadth of programs”; growing enrollment; “great teachers who are
innovative”; a community in which people want to live and to which
Chicagoland refugees are migrating.
draw good teachers, I’ve heard our pay is lacking”; a trickling exodus of
teachers to better compensating systems; the expiration in 2020 of the extra
property-tax levy narrowly approved by referendum in 2012.
the new superintendent: a person who knows the difference between
pedagogical or administrative “fads” and genuine innovation; someone with
experience in referendums; someone who not only resides in the community but
is active in it; a person with “vision,” “wisdom,” and “tech savviness,”
skilled at planning, capable of communicating clearly both internally--to
staff and students--and externally, at large and in public; “dynamic but not
Folks who want to
add their own views may do so through Friday, by completing an online survey
available at the Duneland Schools website,