Call is for a great communicator
"They want someone who is a good, clear communicator," said Carol Moffett, a consultant hired by the PAISD Board of Trustees to line up candidates for the position.
"I think communication is so important in life," said Moffett, former superintendent of the Flour Bluff Independent School District. "It's the No. 1 thing, you know? In an organization, it's critical to have a good communicator. It's how we transmit information and do business."
Trustees have been looking for a new superintendent since Billy Wiggins left the job in August to take over as superintendent of the Salado Independent School District, north of Austin.
Moffett conducted three public meetings Tuesday in the boardroom of the administration building on Station Street. One meeting was for members of PAISD administration. One was for community members. Another was for teachers.
After the meetings were over, Moffett met with trustees to report her findings and to hear them lay out a profile of what kind of superintendent she should be seeking out for the district.
By the end of the meeting, trustees had directed Moffett to piece together a list of about eight specifically worded qualifications that the board will want in its next superintendent.
Moffett will use the list to determine which applicants should end up being the top candidates for the position. Trustees said they will use the list also to help them formulate questions when they interview the top candidates.
A total of 10 PAISD employees and five community members appeared at the meetings Tuesday.
Several parents said the district's next superintendent should show strong leadership qualities; stay approachable and visible at all three of the district's campuses; be willing to admit errors; and communicate well not only with teachers but also with parents.
' Parent Jana Snow said leadership qualities are critical.
"The main point is morale," Snow said. "I think the morale of the whole district begins with the superintendent."
Parent Kelly Owens said hiring someone with a lot of experience won't necessarily be the best move.
"I would really like to see some new blood, some new ideas," Owens said.
Parents and teachers said the next superintendent should be careful not to over-emphasize the importance of the TAKS - the state-mandated Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. Spending too much time preparing students for TAKS testing can mean students are not getting educations that are enriching as they could be, speakers said.
Teachers said trustees also should look for a candidate who has vision and knows well how to handle district finances.
"It's going to get rough around here in the next couple of years, with the economy," said Peter Barello, a Port Aransas High School teacher.
Longtime band teacher Jim Cole said trustees should be on the lookout for candidates' motives for applying for the superintendent position. On one hand, he said, younger candidates might be looking to use PAISD as a steppingstone to get to bigger districts. On the other hand, older candidates might want to spend only a handful more years in education before retiring, Cole said.
H.G. Olsen Elementary School teacher Janis Moore said to watch out for candidates who apply because they want a coastal lifestyle.
"If they say, 'It's because I always wanted to live at the beach,' out the door with them," Moore said, laughing.
Teachers also said the district's next superintendent should understand Mustang Island's unique character. And, they said, the superintendent should not slash budgets so much that extra-curricular activities are hurt.
At the school board meeting, trustees said they want candidates who strive for academic excellence and who will address the needs of every child, no matter how good or bad their academic performances have been.
A good candidate will be ready not only to make sure students do well on the TAKS test but also go beyond that, making sure top students get the enriching educational experiences they need, said Wayne Johnson, PAISD's interim superintendent.
Trustees said they want a superintendent who shows leadership and innovation in helping students learn.
"We want someone thinking outside the box," said Trustee Ann Appling. "Not someone saying, 'Well, this is the way it's done, this is the way it's always been done.' … Education is always changing."
Trustees said they seek an administrator who can piece together good short-term and long-term financial plans for the district. That's especially challenging in Port Aransas. Because of state Robin Hood laws, rich school districts like PAISD must give away large amounts of tax revenue to poorer districts.
School board members said they're looking for candidates who are plugged into professional networks, staying abreast of the latest trends in education. And they want candidates who understand Port Aransas as a town and how widely ranging residents' socio-economic levels are here.
Trustee Chuck Borders said the board doesn't want a superintendent who is merely average.
"We want to be wowed," Borders said. "We want (the superintendent) to exceed our expectations."
Between 45 and 50 candidates have applied so far for the position, Moffett said. She said the district likely will get about 100 applications by the time the Oct. 24 deadline for applications arrives.
Johnson said he has no plans to apply for the permanent position.
Moffett said she will continue to take comment from community members. Folks can write e-mails to her at info@txschoolsolutions. com, and she will pass the sentiments along to trustees, she said.