A group of 30 people gathered at Kalmiopsis Elementary School library Monday night. Their assignment: determine the key qualifications for candidates applying for the interim superintendent job at the Brookings-Harbor School District.
"This is really exciting. This is a wonderful opportunity to effect change in our school district," said Bette Moore, Brookings resident and education advocate.
She joined other residents, school administrators, teachers and staff who accepted the school board's offer be help create the job description for the position that opened when Superintendent Brian Hodge resigned two weeks ago.
"Last night's meeting was a great success," said school board member Katherine Johnson. "I received great feedback from those who were in attendance, from those who had originally just planned to sit in the audience because they are uncomfortable speaking in public. They really appreciated the board providing a way for them to share theirs thoughts and comments in a way that was more comfortable for them."
The school board will meet at 9 a.m. today (Aug. 13) to review the public input, and use it to draft a final job description. The board will also decide how to go about advertising the position and interviewing potential clients.
"Ideally, we hope to have an interim superintended in place in five to six weeks," said board member Bruce Raleigh.
Raleigh and Johnson, who coordinated Monday's workshop, said it is likely the interim superintendent will do the job for the entire 2014-15 school year, with a permanent leader hired sometime next summer.
The school board chose to hire an interim leader to give them adequate time to find a permanent one.
"We don't want to rush something like this. We want to do it right," Raleigh said.
At Monday's workshop, participants reviewed the district's existing policy that included a list of 45-plus qualifications for the superintendent position. The list was split into nine different sections, with titles such as "Values and Ethics of Leadership," "Curriculum Planning and Development," "Labor Negotiations," and "Communication and Community Relations."
Participants took turns sitting in groups of three to five people at nine tables. Discussion at each table was led by a school administrator, including two new principals, new assistant principal, the business manager and special education director. After 20 minutes, participants moved to the next table.
Tenneal Wetherell, hired by the district as its superintendent-of-record to oversee the transition, encouraged participants to think of the best qualities and qualifications that an interim, not permanent, superintendent should possess.
"We're looking for someone who has the skills and experience to hit the ground running; to deal with some of the issues currently going on in the district," Wetherell said.
When asked if there were many candidates out there willing to take on the district's challenges, Wetherall believed there were.
"I'm confident there are several strong candidates who are looking for just such a challenge," she said.
The sudden resignation of Hodge, preceded by the union's "vote of no confidence" in him, was just the latest in a series of challenges for the district.
In the last several months, morale at the district's three campuses had dropped to all-time low. The school board chair resigned mid-term, the district's finance manager, two principals and 11 teachers have taken jobs elsewhere, and the transition from a traditional to proficiency-based grading system has been a near-disaster, according to school officials and staff.
Since then, the district has hired more than 17 new employees, including two principals, a vice principal and several teachers. More hirings are pending.
Also, the district and union just approved a three-year contract born of negotiations that people on both sides called positive and successful.
During Monday's workshop, superintendent qualities rising to the top of many participants' list included a candidate who valued transparency, was "more approachable," and can communicate well with district employees and the public.
Raleigh said the board plans to hold future "community get-togethers" like the one Monday, during which people can meet with the board and ask questions of administrators.
"We want to build a culture in the district where people can participate in these types of things," he said. "This was a good experience and I hope people share what happened here with others and it will spread like wildfire."
Nicole Medrano, the new principal at Azalea Middle School, and Lisa Dion, the new high school principal, agreed.
"We are all on a journey and it's going to be fantastic," Medrano said.
"I'm very excited about what's happening. Everything we come up with here, tonight, we can make it happen," Dion said.