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May 26, 2013

Survey results in for new city schools leadership

Locals want someone with experience, PR abilities

What traits are local residents looking for in the next Cullman City Schools superintendent? According to a recent poll: Experience, public relations skills and the ability to develop and achieve a positive vision for the future.

City school board members received a report this week that will help define who they hire to be the system’s next superintendent, which was compiled from online and in-person surveys of local residents about what skills are most important for the position. Twenty-six people participated in the public meetings, while 211 responded to the online survey.

Dr. Kendy Behrends, a consultant with the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB) presented the final report earlier this week. The report will be used to help select the finalists for the position, and also serve as a reference for the school board when they make the final hire.

“We will look at all this data and try to make a good match,” Behrends explained. “This information can also be used to formulate questions for candidates, once you get to that point.”

Some of the most important traits locals valued were the ability to adapt to change, excellent community engagement and public relation skills, and the ability to effectively lead employees and foster a positive working environment.

Considering the system already ranks as one of the best in the state in many testing areas, Behrends said many responders stressed they wanted someone who could step in and continue on the current path.

“Many people said not to come in and think you have to change everything,” she said. “Look at what’s working well and build on it. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Some responders also noted they would like to see the system focus harder on workforce training, resolving some systemwide crowding issues that have cropped up with growth in recent years and facility maintenance.

A total of 81 percent of responders said they believe the system is currently headed in the right direction, while six percent said they did not agree. The remaining 13 percent had no opinion on the system’s current direction.

In addition to the poll and public sessions, school board president Suzanne Harbin noted the board and AASB reps have also been meeting with several local groups to garner additional input.

“We’ve met with the mayor, council, economic development, Wallace State, Mr. [Billy] Coleman with the county schools, the Chamber, parks department and so many others,” she said. “The point is to understand what Cullman is about, because clearly there are big shoes to fill.”

Potential applicants for the superintendent’s position must be a graduate of an accredited four-year college, hold an Alabama certificate in administration and supervision, have three years of successful education experience and have no less than five years of experience in a public school setting.

Board members hope to have a list of at least five potential candidates by June 18, and conduct public interviews from June 25-28. Those interviews will also be recorded and posted online for any community members who are unable to attend.

If a suitable candidate is found during the process, the board plans to announce the new hire on July 16 with a tentative start date of September 1, which is also Harris’ last day. The board would likely offer a 3-5 year contract.

Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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