SIDNEY — Cheryl W. Ryan, director of board and management services of the Ohio School Boards Association, led a focus group of local residents, Thursday, May 31, to glean their ideas about what skills and qualities a new Sidney City Schools superintendent should have
The meeting was in the community room of the Amos Memorial Public Library, here.
About a dozen residents provided feedback for the Board of Education in support of its search for a superintendent. Current Superintendent John Scheu has tendered his resignation.
The board has contracted with the OSBA to assist in the search. Ryan conducted several focus groups, Thursday, with various stakeholders. The last one of the day gave the public a chance to weigh in on what kind of a new leader should take the reins of the school district.
“What are your hopes, thoughts and ideas about what will make the right superintendent for Sidney?” Ryan asked. “It’s not a one-fits-all kind of position. Every community is different.”
She asked that respondents consider what necessary skills and experiences might be, what kind of a leader the school community needs, what she should tell potential candidates about Sidney and the school system, what the public will want the superintendent to accomplish on the job and what the community will require, such as local residency.
“If you were going to build a superintendent from the ground up, what would it be?” she asked.
Participants didn’t hold back their responses:
“Integrity, being consistent, someone who can support everyone who works in the Sidney City Schools but also (verify) and validate at the same time.”
“Good communication skills with both employees and the public. People-oriented. A can-do, positive attitude.”
“Putting the safety of the students first.”
“Rational, objective, open-minded, tolerant, nondiscriminating, law-abiding. Following the spirit as well as the letter of the law. Selfless, contributing, someone who gets in the game.”
“Open to criticism.”
Everyone agreed that the new superintendent should live in Sidney and be involved in the community. The group felt that facility and curriculum assessments are needed in order to make Sidney students competitive with students in other area districts.
“We’re looking for a strong leader. There are a million ways to lead,” said one woman.
Another participant said he thought it really important that roles and responsibilities of the board of education and of the superintendent be specifically stated.
“The new administrator needs a clear definition of what he’s supposed to be doing,” the man said.
The group also suggested that one of the biggest challenges a new leader will have to tackle is the perception that the Sidney City Schools do not provide a good education.
“Perception is greater than reality,” one attendant said. “You can have the greatest schools in the world, but if they’re perceived as bad, they’re bad.” Another participant said that Sidney corporate executives often tell new employees to work in Sidney but to live in Troy, because of the schools.
“The No. 1 skill (the superintendent) should have is promoting the schools,” someone added.
A leader who requires his staff to follow the chain of command; one who has desire, heart and energy; a consensus-builder who is not a dictator were also suggestions.
“We need a bridge-builder, because the bridge is broken. Someone who can mend fences,” a participant said.
Ryan will forward all the feedback to the board of education, none of whom was present.
“That’s probably because I told them they shouldn’t come,” Ryan said. “Sometimes people are reluctant to say what they think if board members are there.”
She will also forward information from the other four focus groups that met, Thursday: business and community leaders; teachers; school administrators; and classified employees including aides, bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, cooks.
Ryan, who is directing the search, said the hope is that a superintendent will be named by the end of June.
“But I really don’t want Sidney to settle. If we get to the end of the search and it’s unsatisfactory, then an interim superintendent is a possiblity. I’m surprised, though, at the number of candidates that have expressed interest,” she said.
When asked if the other groups had discussed any of the same ideas as this public group, Ryan said that bridge-building had come up in other sessions.
The consensus seems to be “somebody with a vision, somebody who has an idea of where we can go and how we can get there,” she said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.