SIDNEY — Two small groups at focus meetings voiced their opinions on what the Sidney City Schools Board of Education should be seeking when hiring a new superintendent for the district.
Both forums were Monday, June 11 — one at 4 p.m., the second at 6 p.m. — at the board of education’s community meeting room.
Cheryl Ryan, director of Board and Management Services for the Ohio School Boards Association, conducted both forums. The local board of education has contracted with the OSBA to manage the superintendent search.
Ryan said she had been in town conducting forums and the BOE decided it needed additional forums to get community input on the search.
Various questions were posed to attendees during both forums.
Describe the ideal superintendent:
• Experience. “This is too big of a district to be the jumping point for someone new,” said one participant at the 6 p.m. forum. The earlier group disagreed. “Do not hire a person who has ever been connected with the Sidney school district. There’s too much inbreeding,” an attendee said.
• Experience is good if the person is coming from a district that’s successful.
• A new superintendent could also excel — it depends on the person.
• Works well with the community, staff and administration.
• Everyone needs to work together.
• Have a fresh perspective, new ideas.
• Be professional.
• “Someone who is already here and knows us could have a shorter learning curve,” said one participant.
• Have a sense of ownership
“I’ve heard a lot of those comments in the other forums,” said Ryan. “People want the superintendent to understand Sidney, know Sidney and possibly have Sidney experience. Some would like it if it was someone who didn’t know anything about the district. Someone brand new.”
• The superintendent should live in the district. If he doesn’t already live here, he should move here. And his children should attend Sidney City Schools.
What are some of the issues facing the school district?
• “The population of where the kids come from,” said one person. “They come to school for three meals a day, safety and for someone to pay attention to them.”
• Must have compassion for the students. “I’m OK with my child sitting next to a student we have to give a notebook to,” said one mother.
• Parents, said a partipicant, don’t understand how the district is inside out.
• Administrators have to back the superintendent. There’s too much of a buddy system now.
• Communication between the school district and the community must be improved. “It’s a huge issue,” someone said. “People in town don’t know what’s happening here,” another added. They don’t understand school finances or the value of teachers, which results in resentment of their salaries; there should be an annual “state of the schools” that’s open to the public; the new leader should get the community and the schools to work together.
• Parent involvement with their kids at school must be increased.
• The superintendent should talk to the staff — all the staff, not just principals and teachers; he should ask questions and solicit opinions and listen to the answers.
What are the characteristics of a good leader?
• Is a genuine person; real. “Some people can pull the wool over your eyes.” “Honest, doesn’t blow smoke, doesn’t lie to people.”
• Money does matter, but that’s not why they are here. Put students first, ahead of self.
• Lead by example. “We want to see them as part of the team and not dictating.”
• Visibility: Be part of the team. Visit the schools every day.
• Be open to questions and concerns from staff and parents.
• Have the ability to say “no,” but share the big picture and explain “why.”
• Gain respect by consistency.
• Objectivity and being fair.
• Don’t change things solely on test scores.
• Don’t micromanage.
What are the best things about Sidney?
• The staff. “As a parent and a special education teacher, I teach with all kinds of teachers. Their skills are amazing. It’s amazing what the teachers will do for their students.”
• Diverse community and population. “That’s good and bad.”
• Sidney alumni are still here. They are very involved with groups and organizations. “There’s a reason why we stayed. We need to get the other parts of the population involved.”
• Academics. Lots of opportunities for students including dual enrollment, post secondary classes, Workforce Academy, extracurricular activities such as sports and clubs.
What challenges does the district face?
• Improve test scores.
• Tax levy. Fresh ideas on passing a new levy. The new tax laws may result in higher income taxes for many people. That could negatively affect their willingness to add to their property taxes.
• Accountability of the staff, parents and anyone in the district. Assure that the staff is following the chain of command.
• Have a school nurse in the district for a longer time.
• Provide mental health support for students.
• Student and staff safety should be paramount. It’s hard to keep older building safe, secure and well-maintained. Money for the best security is a must. The new superintendent should work with school resource officers.
• Want a superintendent who will interact with the community.
• New policy for hiring or administrators.
• A need for an assistant superintendent. “Other districts our size have an assistant superintendent. This is a large jub for one person. Make sure the person who gets hired knows that.”
• Every school system-owned vehicle should be branded in such a way that it can’t be used for personal travel at the district’s expense.
Reach Melanie Speicher at 937-538-4822 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Reach Patricia Ann Speelman at 937-538-4824 or email@example.com.