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Critical Hire For School Board

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By Joe Foreman, Editor

Approximately 50 people came to the Glenwood Community High School auditorium Thursday night to offer input on the school district’s search for a new superintendent.

The forum was moderated by Dr. Thomas Jacobson, a member of the consulting team hired by the district to help in the recruitment of the potential superintendent candidates.

Audience members were asked to share their thoughts and input on three specific questions. I’m paraphrasing here, but the three questions went something like this:

What do you perceive as some of the positives and/or strengths of the Glenwood community and the school district?

What qualities and skills do you want the new superintendent to possess?

What is something you believe the new superintendent should know about Glenwood and the school district?

The answers to the first question were about what you would expect?

- Some of the positives mentioned by audience members are the school district’s faculty and staff, Glenwood’s geographic location (rural setting but close to metro area), people care about education, we live in a safe environment, students have high test scores, community involvement is high, we have a new high school and the community and district have potential for growth.

The answers to the second question were also predictable.

- For starters, the new superintendent should live in the Glenwood Community School District, The new superintendent should be an experienced person with integrity and a strong backbone. He or she should be a good business manager, visible in the community and at schools, a good communicator, good listener, tech savvy, innovative, possess strong moral character and ethics, be a good planner, a team builder, negotiator and a visionary. One person wants to make sure the new superintendent isn’t going to use Glenwood as a stepping stone to a better job and another person feels it’s important that the new superintendent know when it’s the right time to leave.

The answers were a little less predictable when it came to the third question. Some of the intra-audience dialogue even got a little dicey on this one.

The new superintendent should know the following information about Glenwood and our school district:

- Division exists in the Glenwood community over the Instructional Support Levy (ISL). There is also division among members of the school board. People have lost faith in the Glenwood School District but the school system isn’t completely broken down. The Glenwood community supports its children and its school district. We have a changing population - many lifelong Glenwood residents are resentful of change and new ideas from the so-called “Outcasts” and “Outsiders” that move in, while at the same time, newcomers are reluctant to embrace the traditions associated with the school district, like the annual homecoming celebration.

Members of the audience had some good questions of their own for Jacobson. For example, will the failure of the ISL make it difficult for the district to get quality applicants for the position? And, why would a superintendent already working in a good job consider making a lateral move to Glenwood?

Jacobson said he doesn’t believe failure of the ISL will hurt Glenwood in its search because applicants are aware of the current economic climate and most school districts across the nation are strapped for cash.

As for Glenwood’s appeal to a superintendent who already has a good job in a similar-sized district, Jacobson said Glenwood’s proximity to the Omaha metro area is a huge asset and the school district has a strong reputation within educational circles.

Jacobson was also asked if the search for a new superintendent in Glenwood is being rushed or on an accelerated timeline since the field of candidates will be narrowed down to just a few by the first week of April and the new superintendent is expected to be named by April 15. Jacobson assured the audience that Glenwood is right where it wants to be at this point in the search and he’s already heard from some qualified applicants that are interested in the position.

No doubt, this is a huge hire for our school system. Our district is at a crossroads, facing some immediate and long-term financial challenges. Our five school board members will have the final say in this hire. It’s absolutely critical that they get it right.