"What we need is a younger, un-retired version of Bob Lee." P.J. Cavanagh
Trustees from Bainbridge and Auburn townships gathered at Kenston High School last Wednesday to help a search company determine what the community wants in a new superintendent.
Kenston Superintendent Robert Lee, who has served the district since 1990, announced in January he will retire Aug. 1.
The Kenston Schools Board of Education hired Valley View-based consultants Finding Leaders to assist in their search for a new superintendent.
Wednesday, Finding Leaders representative Steve Farnsworth told trustees the district has received more than 30 applications so far, with a deadline of March 12 coming up.
The school board has target dates of March 24 to receive Farnsworth’s short list of recommended candidates; April 1 and 2 to conduct interviews; April 24 and 25 to conduct interviews of the top two candidates; and hiring a new superintendent by April 30.
During that process, board members will research the top candidates, visit their home school districts and select a stakeholders’ advisory group to help with the interviews, Farnsworth told trustees.
He said he has invited 11 groups, including staff, students, parent organizations, boosters, civic clubs and community groups to meet with him and give him an idea of what they consider important criteria for the new school leader.
“That’s where you come in,” he told the trustees, adding their input would be added to the information he has already collected.
Farnsworth began the hour-long discussion by asking trustees what they thought were the district’s outstanding strengths.
Auburn Trustee P.J. Cavanagh said he thought it was financial security through sound fiscal practices, aggressive pursuit of grants and a history of community support.
Fellow Auburn Trustee John Eberly agreed.
“We’ve had very, very sound financial leadership and very, very high community involvement,” Eberly said. “On Parent-Teacher night, everybody’s there.”
Bainbridge Township Trustees listed students with diverse interests, strong programs in science and the arts and good communication with the community.
Bainbridge Trustee Lorrie Sass Benza said the centralized school campus makes Kenston attractive to many civic groups that hold programs and activities there.
When Farnsworth asked the six trustees what qualities they would like to see in a superintendent, they listed excellent financial skills, a visionary who will continue the school’s “green” initiative for operating costs savings, someone who attends most school events and is visible in the community, someone who is accessible to the public and someone who understands the importance of working with local government.
When asked about potential weaknesses, Benza said school board members have told her it is difficult to reach senior citizens and residents who do not have children in the schools.
Cavanagh said open enrollment and declining enrollment in adjacent districts could translate into Kenston absorbing more students from neighboring districts.
Bainbridge Trustee Chris Horn said Kenston will also see declining enrollment during the next decade, with 240 in the current graduating class, but only 170 in kindergarten.
“It’s gonna take a lot of management skills to make sure we operate our facilities at the maximum level,” Horn told Farnsworth. “During the bad times, it’s important to have sound fiscal policies.”
Benza said Kenston is a leader in using technology, but that could eventually lead to less need for brick-and-mortar buildings as more students take advantage of Internet study.
Auburn Trustee Mike Troyan said few students use the bus system and that trend is likely to increase.
“The school buses will go the way of newspapers,” Troyan said.
All six trustees agreed the district should seek a candidate who wants to spend his or her entire career at Kenston, and that longevity in the job, as Lee demonstrated, is important to consistency and stability in the district.
“What we need is a younger, un-retired version of Bob Lee,” Cavanagh said.
Farnsworth said his interviews have found similar comments as those offered by the trustees.
“It’s clear to me that there’s a great deal of pride in this district and the community,” Farnsworth said. “It’s clear to me that this is more than finding an outstanding superintendent. It’s about finding a superintendent who fits our needs.”
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