March 21, 2018 – West Bend, WI – Community leaders and business owners in West Bend gathered Tuesday morning to meet with McPherson & Jacobson, LLC, a recruitment and development firm assisting with the search for a new superintendent in the West Bend School District.
There were two session with local stakeholders and each group answered the same series of four questions. That input below.
Representatives from McPherson & Jacobson said this is going to be a multi-phase process designed to steer the board to help make the right decision on future leadership.
The goal of the stakeholder meeting was to identify characteristics and attributes of the district and a new leader.
Session No. 1: Tell us the good things about your community?
Entrepreneurial, generous, sense of community, active parents and active kids, we’re not Milwaukee, independent, accessibility to Milwaukee, community that’s engaged and care about the issues, make this a more inviting place for families to live and work, people with deep roots care and advocate for this community, active/thriving downtown and Main Street, huge sense of volunteerism, great park system and trails, cultural community, safe community, people want to live here, two-year college, on the business side there is a lot of involvement in education, West Bend is the county seat which allows close working relationships, growing economy, deep roots, history and leaders of yesterday are also leaders of today.
Tell us the good things about your schools?
Like to try new things, cooperative with other agencies, diverse curriculum offerings, 22nd largest in the state of Wisconsin, like to get the kids involved in more than just their studies, boards have listened to the community and some offerings lead directly to the workplace, college and career readiness, teachers put the children first, some curriculum is real-life and a more relevant application, administrative team that absent of a superintendent has kept the district moving, teachers are engaged and they are here for the kids even with disarray at the top, schools are safe and work closely with WBPD, we’re here today getting this process going because the community does need a captain, fun to see a lot of people who we went to school with have come back and they have history and nice to see them return home, top quality facilities management
What issues should the incoming superintendent be aware of in the district?
There are smaller contingents on polar opposite sides active on social media, this is a national search and what’s happening in state with academic career planning, we have a politically-active community and politically-active staff which may not be appropriate in the educational setting, there is a chasm between staff and administration in a lot of areas, after Act 10 the board changed the compensation model for teachers and they are reeling from that and that’s a topic that will come up in the near future, more of a conceived issue there’s a thought West Bend is a failing school district – but it’s not a struggling district, reputation of West Bend School District from outside the district is not what it used to be, pledge of transparency and there is none, district is in a state of chaos, community engagement is missing, being active in the community, financially frugal community and referendums are not easily passed, work ahead to clarify roles of superintendent and other key stakeholders, clarify what is expected and how groups will work together to go farther faster, issue of two high schools in one building, define the failing perception of the district – what does this mean failing financially or students not graduating, WB is an inferior district when compared to Slinger
What characteristics should new superintendent have to be successful?
The new superintendent should have a PHD or Ed. D of education, they need to be dynamic in their speaking and concise, need to have someone who leads and doesn’t react, excellent at public relations and boost image of the school – shouldn’t be hard, just tell the truth, can’t be afraid to engage all but has to be resilient, collaborate with other superintendents in the county, message for current and new board – superintendent should debate privately and support publically, superintendent should be expected to live in the community, capability to be strategic, someone viewed as making the best decision for the students in the district, administrative perspective is to develop a good team, succession planning, experience this type of district in the past bring experience from a real set of examples, someone who is inspiring, someone who takes input from the staff and direction from the community, really good listener, superintendent is the education expert – so they lead and not react, sell a vision, so much of district is finance and metrics they need to be comfortable with that – need to have statistic and financial acumen, this is an $80 million company.
McPherson & Jacobson said they would also meet with students, staff, the community and the board Feedback will be forwarded to the school board who will hear and shape the final job posting and then shape interview questions and when candidates are looking online.
A couple other random points were made by the first group of stakeholders:
-I’d say they’d have to clean up a huge mess. We’re lacking a reason to feel proud and we have it but it’s being shadowed by miscellaneous things. We need to bring the pride back. Generate energy and have an education ambassador.
-Whoever hired can’t be afraid of a challenge.
-People I hang with – regardless of what political end of pendulum, we are ready to support a person and move forward together.
-Community is hungry for a good leader.
-District is in great financial shape.
-Generous community when they know the investment they make has a good return on investment.
McPherson & Jacobson said the candidate pool is deeper for principals at this point. They however do have a list already of 41 candidates. The firm also confirmed this will be a national search and a final decision on a superintendent will be made in the middle to end of May with a start date in July.
Second session –
Tell us the good things about your community?
West Bend has a great work ethic, it’s a generous community, the foundations that give to scholarships are second to none, the community service, great family values, great parks and downtown, safe community, very involved community, conservative community, long history that helped shape the future with new folks as well, rich history, growing community, center of gravity of the county, not a company community, lots of diverse companies, more diverse in population, not just a bedroom community, very involved student population that volunteers, close enough to Milwaukee where you can enjoy opportunities but not close enough for some of the negative spillover, strong family values, culture with the Kettle Moraine and MOWA, great Farmers’ Market and Music on Main, YMCA is fabulous, strong nonprofits and public/private partnerships, UW-WC, MPTC and Froedtert and great health care.
Tell us the good things about the school
Facilities are great, diversity of programs, especially AP courses, amazing and dedicated staff, gives kids a full year of college based on advanced coursework, financial benefit, freedom of movement for families, the students are the best, healthy balance between academics and athletics, saving money in our budget for facility needs, trades programs are amazing, depth and breadth of academic and athletic / co-curricular activities to help develop their best self, opportunities and choices for kids, unique charter school/Pathways, personalized learning, curriculum is important, student-teacher relationship, arts programs are incredible, paying teachers in top 5% of salary and benefits across the state. (review DH)
What issues should the superintendent be aware of as he/she comes to the district?
Social media, teachers, there is distrust between teachers and administration, Act 10 is working in the district and the community expects the superintendent to use this and can still be fair treatment, expectations are clear with salary and benefits – be sure there is stability and it is laid out, list of teachers the past superintendent – behind the scenes a version of Act 10 – when Valley was here you would negotiate with CPI that meet with HR, can cause dissention and it raises expectations and there’s declining enrollment, disappointment with what’s happening with turnover of superintendents, working on distrust, next superintendent will be someone who advocates for the teachers, looking from the outside in there’s a lack of support for superintendent – it’s community wide, first job is administrators, teachers and then students and being tight knit in the community, be involved at student level, a lot of concern among parents that there’s political activism in the classroom, superintendent has to be knowledgeable about various salary/pay models around the state, school districts overall salaries in the state of Wisconsin (top 5%), superintendent understands district is self insured and that is a money saver, many problems are adult driven and not student driven, mistake is that as an administrator you’re in the middle, rather than say advocate for the teachers – every public entity is having this issue, it’s a mistake to narrow it down to one thing but develop a working relationship, we’ve had baseline teachers that have left, teacher turnover, common theme is whether to focus on quality of education for students but then that theme gets hijacked, how functional is school board as a whole and are they creating division, any strength over applied can be a negative, importance of community and family values, finding many companies in need of understanding of varied cultures and diversity, after Act 10 the pendulum swung to the right and teachers felt underappreciated and then new superintendent took it to the center and then top administration left within two months, a lot of people left for Slinger School District, traits of Slinger leadership need to be identified, success breeds success in Slinger and chaos breeds chaos, drug issue within the community, not a lot of tenure and long-term commitment.
What skills, qualities, characteristics, should new superintendent possess?
Be able to ensure stability and lead with understanding and expectations of community, teamwork has been breaking down, wisdom and understanding, are there central people causing dissension, better communication, transparency, respect, community involvement, advocate for the school district, balance of charismatic and caring, take charge and can’t please everyone, passionate leader, know how to create vision, culturally-responsive practices, strong management skills for people they are supervising, very organized, define priorities, make decisions right out of the gate, have realistic expectations, collaboratively build a definition for success, build consensus, communication has to be to number one which is the students, superintendent must balance needs of all the stakeholders, it’s a great job based on all the things in place in the community, be an ambassador to share things, know how to do a marketing plan, credibility and tenure, community atmosphere, need someone with experience, can be their first job as a new superintendent, hire internally, international search and only limited to school background – organizational change agent, growth mindset.
There will be an online survey forthcoming that will be open for 10 days.