Shaker Residents Give Input on Superintendent Search

Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates conducted their two public input meetings on what the Shaker School District should look for in a new superintendent last week.HYA is conducting a search for Shaker’s new superintendent. The new pick will replace Mark Freeman, who has headed the district for 24 years. HYA is beginning its search process with a series of meetings for various constituent groups to give input on what they’d like to see in a new superintendent. The meetings last week were open to the general public.

Twenty-two people attended the Dec. 13 meeting and 18 community members attended the Dec. 15 meeting. According to HYA senior associate Marvin Edwards, these groups were average sized for focus groups.

Edwards was present at both meetings, but senior associate Ted Blaesing was only in town for the Dec. 13 meeting.

Edwards asked the participants what qualities they would like to see in the next superintendent, the strengths of the school district and concerns for the school district.

Community participants would like the next superintendent to be an innovator, a visionary, a strong communicator and someone able to empower those around them. Some feel the district needs some major changes in a superintendent. One male Shaker resident said he wants a superintendent who is “not afraid to break some eggs.”

Other Shaker residents said they would look for someone with a strong presence in the community who knows how Shaker works. They said the new superintendent needs to realize that the school system, including the students and parents, is the main focus of our community.

Participants said the new superintendent cannot shy away from talking about Shaker’s difficult issues and needs to listen to the community’s opinions before proposing new ideas — and will likely need to compromise.

Community members were also concerned that the new superintendent maintain the high Shaker standards of being accepting of differences and socially supportive of everyone.

Some said the new leader should have prior hands-on experience with working with urban youth and a thick, yet compassionate skin to deal with Shaker’s challenges.

The person that assumes Freeman’s role will be met with a community with many concerns for Shaker’s school system.

Top among those concerns was a feeling that the schools do a poor job working with middle-of-the-road or unmotivated students. One parent said, “There is this huge population that’s in the middle who might be underserved.”

Another concern of many at the meetings was standardized testing scores. Parents indicated they feel these tests are unfair and the state needs to fund schools more, regardless of scores. One mother said a challenge is “maintaining our reputation in light of state report cards.”

Some parents feel the achievement or “opportunity gap,” caused by economic inequality in such a diverse city, is the school district’s biggest problem.

Others feel the district has done a poor job embracing technology and the many ways it can be used for education. One mother said, “We have to be a district that is responsive to how rapidly education is changing.”

Another concern is that behavioral issues are becoming a big problem.

Community members also shared what they feel are the districts strengths. Some said the quality of teaching is high and the teachers are committed to student learning. Others said student diversity makes the schools great. Participants also recognized the high level of community support for the schools and high expectations from parents as strengths. One parent said that the city recognizes that “our school is our most important asset.”

HYA will create a leadership profile for the Board of Education with information from the two public meetings and the series of private focus group meetings completed in the past week. HYA will present this in January and used to advertise the position to potential candidates.

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