The Wichita school district’s next superintendent is expected to be a determined leader with a “strong moral compass rooted in justice and equality,” school board members said Monday as they finalized the job description.
The board approved 12 attributes preferred by community members who filled out a recent survey and participated in a series of engagement events organized by Iowa-based Ray & Associates, which is being paid approximately $39,000 to lead the research.
These characteristics will be included in the job description, which will be posted on the district website on Tuesday:
- He is willing to listen to input but is a decision maker
- Possess the leadership skills, knowledge and sensitivity necessary to respond to the opportunities and challenges presented by a diverse student body and community
- He has a strong moral compass that is rooted in justice and equality
- He is a strong communicator in speaking, listening and writing
- He has experience in recruiting and retaining exceptional staff for the district and schools
- Can delegate and supervise staff work (i.e. lead by example) and hold accountability appropriately
- He is strongly committed to a “student-centered” philosophy in all decisions
- Possesses the ability to improve student performance, particularly in identifying and filling or narrowing gaps in student achievement and opportunity
- It fosters a positive and professional environment that includes mutual trust and respect between faculty, staff, directors and the board of directors
- Has classroom experience in a K-12 environment
- Commitment and experience in working with all genders, races and socio-economic groups while promoting positive and inclusive student behavior that fosters a safe and healthy learning environment
- Make data-driven recommendations and decisions
According to Ray & Associates, 500 people joined the listening sessions held last week and another 400 submitted feedback online.
The deadline for submitting applications for internal candidates is January 31st. The school board will consider expanding the search to include applicants from outside the district after reviewing internal applicants.
Outgoing superintendent Alicia Thompson has worked with the district for 31 years and has held the leadership role since 2017. The school board hopes to name her successor by spring break.
“Students have overwhelmingly voiced the need for a well-rounded, passionate leader who is willing to take risks and make change within our community and our district,” said Andrew Le of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council. .
“They also expressed concerns about more creative and unique ways to address mental health within the district, for both staff and students.”
Thompson, who will retire at the end of the school year, cited an October Mental Health America analysis that ranked Kansas last in the US for mental health due to high rates of mental illness and barriers to access to care.
The report, based largely on data from 2019 and 2020, found that 9 percent of Kansas youth had a substance use disorder, more than any other state. Only three states scored lower than Kansas on access to mental health care.
“We shouldn’t be the last state on the record for mental health services in our communities,” Thompson said during Monday night’s meeting, addressing state and local officials. “We need to step up and sustain resource delivery so we can stabilize our community.”
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 80 percent of public schools in the United States report that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted both student behavior and social-emotional development.
After a semester marred by student brawls and gun arrests, officials in Wichita, the state’s largest school district, say the disruptive behavior of fewer than 10 percent of students is pushing educators to their limits and undermining learning.
“Our parents need to step up and help us get kids into school and have expectations for them when you send them,” Thompson said. “Don’t let them come to school and insult teachers or hit people or that kind of thing.”
Direction of the school board
Also at Monday’s meeting, school board stalwart Sheril Logan was unanimously selected by her peers to serve a sixth term as board president in 2023, when she and two other members are re-elected.
Diane Albert was awarded the vice presidency 6-1 with Julie Hedrick voting for outgoing president Stan Reeser, who in turn voted for Albert.