Report on Phase I of School Superintendent Search

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By Janine Bowen

Tuesday evening marked the end of the first phase in the White Plains School District’s search for a new superintendent, as the Board approved the specifications for a candidate, as determined by the public.

Over the last few months, the district has held over a dozen meetings and conducted surveys allowing stakeholders in the district to voice their opinions on what they wished to see in a new school superintendent. Overall, nearly three hundred people participated in this phase of the search.

During the meeting, Charles Fowler from School Leadership, which conducted the surveys, revealed the public’s top desires, and noted that the information was crucial in determining how to move forward.

“Arguably, what I am presenting tonight is probably the most important part of the process, other than the interviews and the selection, because this sets the stage for our recruitment efforts and our networking and our search for the superintendent,” he said.

Some of the characteristics the stakeholders in the White Plains School District most sought in a superintendent included high integrity and the ability to effectively lead and manage while also caring about people. They also believed that a multi-lingual professional would be advantageous, because of the diverse population in the city. The importance of the candidates past experience was also emphasized.

“You don’t just interview someone and assume that…they have accomplished all the things that they tell you…it’s very important that…there is a track record and there’s proven evidence of their leadership skills,” said Fowler.

Adding a bit of humor to this rather serious search, some people also suggested that a solution to finding a new district leader would be to “clone Tim,” referring to Tim Connors, who has been brought out of retirement to temporarily fill the role.

In addition to sharing what the public hopes to see in the superintendent, the report, based on the surveys and meetings, also gauged what the public saw to be the strengths and challenges of the district with which the candidate will need to contend.

Strengths mentioned were community support, strong instructional resources, and the maintenance of programs in the face of financial hardship. The challenges they believe the candidate will have to handle included the ability to meet the needs of the districts large special education population, the need to resolve the teacher contract issue, and the ability to maintain ethnic and racial balance in schools across the district.

In a unanimous vote, the board approved these criteria and some suggested advertising specifications, and agreed to move forward to the second phase of the search, posting the position across several media, including Education Week and the website of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.


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