The Poudre School District community wants its next superintendent to “foster a positive, professional climate of mutual trust and respect,” according to a report presented to the Board of Education on Tuesday.
Team members of Hazard, Young, Attea, and Associates (HYA) — a group outsourced to help with the selection of PSD’s next superintendent — presented a leadership profile report to PSD’s governing board during a school board meeting Tuesday night.
HYA created the profile to assist the board “in determining the primary characteristics desired in the new superintendent,” according to the report.
“It’s very important to us that we get the information you’re gathering from the public and put in the public sphere as we do this search process,” board president Christophe Febvre said.
PSD announced in December that a change of leadership “was in the best interest of the district” after Sandra Smyser served as superintendent the previous 7 1/2 years. Smyser took early retirement and has been replaced on an interim basis by prior Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Schools Todd Lambert.
The five major takeaways HYA presented to the board were that “the new superintendent must:
- effectively address issues related to equity and diversity
- instill trust and mutual respect among all stakeholders
- communicate frequently, clearly, and thoughtfully and listen actively and deeply
- unify stakeholders with articulation and implementation of a strategic vision, clear goals/ends, and focus on the achievement, health, and growth of every student every day
- authentically engage with students and staff, parents and service providers, and an array of community partners.”
To collect this data, HYA conducted focus groups and interviews with about 200 community members and stakeholders and surveyed more than 2,300 people.
Max McGee, who led the presentation for HYA, said the focus groups were well attended and the comments were “astute.”
McGee said the profile report will be used in every step of the hiring process, from being used as a basis for questions in screening interviews to helping develop an action plan for the new superintendent during the transition time.
Other themes that arose throughout the report were the need for regular and transparent communication, a “culture of belonging” and the ability to address the needs of the district’s diverse population.
Respondents felt that the district currently has five major strengths including quality education, college and career readiness of graduates, and high standards for students.
HYA senior associate Nola Wellman said that 90% of people surveyed agreed or strongly agreed they would recommend someone move to the district because of school quality; she said this number is typically around 80%.
HYA also asked participants what challenges were facing the district and, in turn, the new superintendent.
Students’ social and emotional needs as learning transitions back to classrooms, COVID-19 and its lasting impacts surrounding finance and trust, and addressing the need of underresourced and underrepresented students and families were noted as challenges and issues in the district, said Dallas Strawn, an HYA associate.
McGee noted that some differences in surveyed responses between parents and teachers could “indicate different standards or expectations regarding the district’s effectiveness.”
He said teachers seemed to think the district was doing a better job in meeting the needs of students with disabilities and “exceptionally talented students” than parents did, which McGee said is an atypical disagreement.
HYA presented the report confidently and wrote that it provided the board “a clear picture of the desired characteristics and qualifications for the district’s next Superintendent of Schools.”
McGee said compared to other searches done in other districts, they usually don’t see the level of community engagement or “desire to support” the district that they saw while collecting this data. He also said they had a larger number of Spanish-speaking participants than usual.
The next steps in the superintendent search are recruiting applications and conducting screening interviews with candidates for the position. McGee and Wellman said they hope to begin screening interviews in the last week of February and HYA hopes to present the slate of candidates around March 22.
“We know you need an experienced, energetic leader,” McGee said. “The new superintendent will really need to make an effort to connect with this community.”
To read the full leadership profile report, visit the PSD Board of Education website and click through to the Feb. 9 agenda.
Molly Bohannon covers education for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @molboha or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.