Defining goals for a schools chief — and district
By Jeff Simms
Thinking outside of the box. Transparency. A people person. A diamond in the rough.
The search for a new superintendent for the Beacon City School District continued to take shape this week, as district officials solicited feedback from community members.
The school board meeting on Tuesday, April 26, included a brainstorming session in which community members rattled off the characteristics they want to see in a superintendent. Parents and other members of the audience were clear that they seek a person not just with the professional skillset but with the empathy and leadership skills to understand a diverse community in need of direction.
“What I hope for is a superintendent [who can be] both a leader and a manager,” said Antony Tseng, who is a candidate for the board. “If you find somebody who does embrace the community … that’s the kind of diamond in the rough I would want to see.”
Others stressed a penchant for the arts to reflect the growing community in which he or she would work. Craig Wolf, a longtime Beacon resident, said he seeks “good, honorable character, and verifiably so.”
On Wednesday night, community members got to work, gathering again at Beacon High School for a “visioning” forum to create a framework that a superintendent, whenever he or she arrives, will be able to work within.
“This was about getting our school district moving in the right direction,” explained Ann Marie Quartironi, who was named interim district chief in January and has said she will remain in that position until a hire is made. “The parents have been asking for us to create a vision that reflects who we really are, and this is a process to make that more relatable.”
The 90-minute workshop was a departure from previous superintendent searches. District officials, school board members and parents, around 40 in all, sat together at tables to create strategies, prioritize themes and help build a unified vision for a district and community.
Working in groups of seven or eight, attendees discussed core school system values and elected leaders to share each table’s feedback. Whereas school board meetings have at times been marked by tension and confrontation, Wednesday’s forum seemed like an important step in another direction, with the classroom-like format stressing teamwork.
“We want to be able to create pathways for all members of the community to come together and define who we are,” said Cecilia Dansereau-Rumley, the director of pupil personnel services for the school district. “You need to have a format like this, a work session, for us to work together to create a real partnership.”
There’s no timetable for hiring a superintendent, but the expected next official step is for the district to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for a search firm to identify candidates.
Another community workshop will take place in May, with more likely after that. In time, the sessions “will allow us, with the leadership of a new superintendent, to say ‘What’s our five- or 10-year goal?’ ” said Dansereau-Rumley. “That will bring to life our plan to get to where we want to be.”