West Holmes Schools superintendent search taking shape

West Holmes Schools superintendent search taking shape
Dave Mast

Teri Morgan, senior deputy director of Ohio School Boards Association, visited with each school in the West Holmes School District and also met with community members. The school board has utilized the OSBA's expertise in creating the ideal candidate.

                        

In its efforts to select a new superintendent, the West Holmes Local School Board wanted to make one thing clear. The new superintendent will not be based solely on their desires.

“When we first started talking about this process back in November, we wanted to make sure it wasn’t a board selection but would include input from everyone in the district,” said Andrew Jones, board president. “We wanted to make sure people could talk freely about what characteristics they wanted to see in a new superintendent.”

The board recently updated its staff and the community on the search for the district’s next superintendent at its monthly board meeting. In December the school board contracted with the Ohio School Boards Association to conduct an executive search on behalf of the district.

Since that time OSBA has worked with the staff, community and the board to develop a model for the ideal candidate and produce a candidate brochure that lists their leadership criteria for their next chief executive. The board felt it was important to survey the community and the district’s 300 employees to help them identify what makes an ideal candidate, and the information they received became a bulk of what the candidate search focused on.

According to the brochure, the district desired hiring a person of integrity who has high standards of honesty, ethics and personal conduct, as well as a sense of humor. The publication goes on to detail the specific benchmarks for these qualities and invited candidates across the region to apply for the position.

According to Jones, the process is fairly simple in approach.

“Our board desires to select someone the staff and community can be proud of and, more importantly, can continue the great work of our school district and become part of our community,” Jones said. “In order to do this, West Holmes took an unrestricted approach to identify the characteristics they wish to see in our next superintendent.”

OSBA invited all members of the staff, area business owners, governmental leaders, retirees and organization leaders to participate in the various focus groups. Wide-ranging views were collected, discussed and made a part of the job description for the ideal candidate. The position has been advertised since December in regional and statewide publications focusing on education professionals.

According to Jones, there are 29 applicants being evaluated by OSBA and the board. In the coming weeks, the board will begin the interview and vetting process in hopes of having a candidate identified by mid-March.

Jones said the board is extremely pleased with the direction the search has taken.

“It’s going like clockwork like we had originally planned back in December in our planning meeting,” Jones said.

The first step of the plan was to connect with an organization that deals with superintendent searches, and that fell upon Teri Morgan, senior deputy director of the Ohio School Boards Association.

Morgan paid a visit to West Holmes Schools earlier this winter and met with staff and community members to flesh out what the district wanted to see in a new superintendent.

After meeting staff at each school in the district and with community members at Millersburg Elementary, Morgan took the information she collected back to the OSBA, and they created a recommendation.

Jones said the option to connect with OSBA was easy because of the success the organization has had over the years in successfully connecting school districts with superintendents.

“To our school board, that time with Teri Morgan and the OSBA’s input is invaluable,” Jones said. “It allows us to hear from everybody without actually having to circulate to everyone and go bit by bit. We were able to hear the most important things they want to have in a new superintendent.”

The board met with Morgan after the OSBA created its information package and scripted the particulars of its job description, which will in turn make identifying the best candidate a much easier process.

“Basically, we crafted a promotional brochure inviting candidates to apply, so they knew what the board was looking for in a candidate,” Jones said. “We are hoping that will fine-tune the people that applied.”

Jones said what made the search possible was current superintendent John Thomas’ willingness to bring decades of educational experience to the role of superintendent on a one-year basis.

“It’s easy to see why he has done those for four decades,” Jones said of Thomas. “He has been instrumental in our transition through this year, and he has been instrumental in guiding us through the process of finding our next CEO. He has led by allowing others to realize their leadership potential. That is the true mark of a great leader, and we have tremendous leadership in our administration at West Holmes.”

Jones said the board is grateful for the ongoing community support in assisting the district. “Our consultant told us how impressed they were for the outpouring of support from all walks of life throughout the area,” Jones said. “Well over 100 people took time to assist us in preparing for our school’s next leader, and we certainly appreciate it.”


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