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Survey Gives You Chance To Tell Flagler School Board What You Want In Next Superintendent

| February 16, 2017

school board superintendent search

The school board at its long, long workshop Wednesday evening.

To take the residents’ survey on the next school superintendent, go here.

The Flagler County School Board Wednesday evening settled on a detailed timeline and parameters for its superintendent search, with interviews of the short-listed candidates scheduled for April 20 and 21 and a community forum, where residents, students school employees may meet the candidates, scheduled for April 19.


The board also agreed on a community survey now available for all county residents to fill out online. The survey gives residents an opportunity to say what they consider to be the top challenges facing the next superintendent and the district, what they’d like to see in a superintendent.

The arrangements were worked out during a laborious, 140-minute board workshop with the three consultants from the Florida School Board Association the board has hired, for $25,000, to manage the search: Bill Vogel, John Reichert and Andrea Messina.

“Last time we definitely did not have as much organization as we do now,” Board Chairman Trevor Tucker said, referring to the search that led to Oliva’s appointment three years ago, after an abbreviated search that drew just 19 applicants: most sensed that he had already been chosen before the fact, as he had successfully served as an interim for months.

The search was prompted by Superintendent Jacob Oliva taking a job by June at the state Department of Education. The board was reluctant to conduct another rapid search, but settled on using the association consultants to minimize missteps and maximize efficiency. The ad for the job has already been posted and drawn four applications by Wednesday. The ad (which you can see here and at the foot of the article) appears on sites including Education Week, Association of Latino Administrators, Florida Association of School Administrators, National Alliance of Black School Administrators and a few other sites. The applications will be posted online weekly, a step underscoring the board’s intent to be as transparent as possible.

Oliva allowed that while his administrative staff is supportive of the various initiatives he’s put in place, “if I could just speak frankly, I think they’re nervous about who the next person is going to be, because they’re a little bit scared—I shouldn’t say scared. They want to make sure that we’re continuing the vision that we set forth because they believe in it and they don’t want to see somebody come in and move us on a complete different direction.”

Flagler County School Board Chairman Andy Dance acknowledges that he 'screwed up,' and called his plagiarism a 'teachable moment.' (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County School Board Chairman Andy Dance. (© FlaglerLive)

School Board member Andy Dance, who’d sought to appoint a superintendent from within the district—three board members rebuffed him—spoke little during the meeting but jumped in at the 100-minute mark with Oliva’s opening. He said teachers are facing enough uncertainty with changes in their mandates and profession. “You need consistency,” Dance said. “You need to establish something, believe in it and be consistent with it over a period of time.”

For students, employees and the community at large, the most involvement I the process, aside from participating in an April 19 meet and greet with the short-listed candidates, entails filling the community survey, which takes about 10 to 15 minutes over a half dozen online screens, each with a series of prompts that ask respondents to rate the statement on a scale of 1 (“not at all important”) to 5 (“essential, critically important”).

Many of the survey questions seem self-evident. For example, respondents are asked to rate the importance of such statements as: “Inspires and builds trust and models high standards of integrity and ethics.” “Brings people of different cultures together to achieve goals.” “Leads with humility, caring, and servant-leader attitude.” “Displays a positive outlook at work and in personal life.” Exhibits excitement, energy, happiness, and has a sense of humor. “Possesses the ability and willingness to make tough decisions that may not always be popular.” “Holds self and others accountable.” “Highly organized strategic thinker.”

Some of the prompts are clearly tendentious: How the district expects to pry into a superintendent’s private life, or why, is not explained, and the expectation of “happiness” is not defined. Some sound right and inspiring, but are nevertheless extremely vague, such as: “Leads with a vision, looks to the future, yet honors the past.”

The next page, on “instructional leadership,” more directly addresses the sort of pragmatic qualities respondents want to see in their superintendent, and again for the most part make statements that are difficult to rate as less than essential, regardless of the job: “Successfully led a district’s strategic plan or portion thereof, with identified measurable results and a focus on performance.” “Analyzes and uses data for decision-making to review or improve actions, plans, processes, and systems.” “Possesses multiple educational experiences.” “Understands the value and benefits of early childhood education.”

But the prompts also include more specific statements that focus on Flagler’s school-to work initiatives, and will gauge the prospective superintendents’ positions on that: “Values and fosters the school-to-work/business relationships with community partners.”

The survey moves on to business and finance, again with prompts about clearly essential qualities (“Understands the Florida Educational Finance System.” “Leads and monitors staff in a large organization.”) Then the survey addresses relations with the school board, employees and residents (“Demonstrates good listening skills and gathers information to make thoughtful, timely decisions.” “Positively advocates for the district by building successful relationships with all stakeholder groups, including the media.”) One of the prompts is partly subjective, combining an essential quality (“honesty” with one both difficult to gage and unfairly paired with honesty: “Leads with honesty and charisma.” Many a leader has been unquestionably honest, but not necessarily charismatic.

The survey also gives respondents a chance to provide input on the strength and weaknesses of the district.

“It’s very easy to scroll through,” whether on a computer or a call phone, Ryan Deising, the district IT director who put the survey together, said.

But it has its flaws: it relies on the honor system when asking participants to accurately put in the zip code they’re working from. More troubling for the accuracy of the survey: it allows survey-takers to take it again and again, from the same computer terminal. If there once was a reason to do that, such as enabling different students or faculty at any given school to repeatedly use the same terminal, that reason no longer applies now that individualized computers are the norm.

The survey will close on March 17, at the same time as the advertisement for the job closes.

At a Feb. 21 meeting the school board will set out the responsibilities of the search advisory committee, made up of 20 members chosen by the board members. (They must all attend all meetings and comply with the timeline, and of course understand all public record laws.) That advisory committee will first meet on March 9. The interviews with the short-listed candidates will take place on April 20 and 21, with the full board interviewing the candidates on the first day, and the second day devoted to one-on-one interviews. The board has agreed to pay the short-listers’ travel fares but will work with local hotels and perhaps its Education Foundation to help defray the costs of accommodations.

The board members Wednesday evening discussed, for the consultants’ benefit, the district’s relationships with other local governments, legislators, the chamber of commerce, faculty and the unions—relationships that have been remarkably strong and harmonious—and discussed the mission and beliefs of the district. ‘Best that I’ve ever been since I’ve been on the board,” is how Tucker described the board’s relationship with the district’s two unions (teachers, whose salaries are now among best in the state,  more than service workers, who have chafed from pay scales that are still very low. “It’s on the radar to try to take care of this,” Oliva said.)

janet mcdonald

Janet McDonald. (© FlaglerLive)

 “I would like to see more focus at the primary level because I think a lot of the things that we’re pushing really part in the middle of our curriculums and at the end goal of graduation could be ameliorated if we had more of a focus in the primary, and I think we’re small enough to do something that’s more developmentally appropriate in getting kids ready to learn, with some unique programming. I know we have a lot of uniqueness in our technology but we’re missing some pieces in the human development piece that I think will take us to new levels of achievements in all the grades.” Targeted initiatives, in other words, are fine, McDonald said, but she would like to see more of a “foundational” approach. “And I think we can do that on top of the state regulations,” she said.

Board member Colleen Conklin dovetailed on McDonald’s suggestions: “I would hope for a superintendent that’s not going to find themselves or allow themselves to be boxed in by some of the ongoing onslaught, changing-forever legislation that, you know, what’s the flavor of the month kind of thing,” Conklin said, “but kind of look at and be interested in exploring options for alternative assessments instead of just relying on the assessment program that we have in place now. Looking at alternative use of our schedules, how students spend their time in school and how teachers spend their time in school, and just breaking the kind of the traditional mold, if you will—someone who has experience in developing meaningful internships for students and externships for teachers to improve the depth of their knowledge in specific contend areas.”

Oliva, the superintendent, allowed that while his administrative staff is supportive of the various initiatives he’s put in place, “if I could just speak frankly, I think they’re nervous about who the next person is going to be, because they’re a little bit scared—I shouldn’t say scared. They want to make sure that we’re continuing the vision that we set forth because they believe in it and they don’t want to see somebody come in and move us on a complete different direction.”

School Board member Andy Dance, who’d sought to appoint a superintendent from within the district—three board members rebuffed him—spoke little during the meeting but jumped in at the 100-minute mark with Oliva’s opening. He said teachers are facing enough uncertainty with changes in their mandates and profession. “You need consistency,” Dance said. “You need to establish something, believe in it and be consistent with it over a period of time.”

Watch the Workshop in Full here.

The Ad for the Job:

The School District of Flagler County Florida seeks applications for Superintendent of Schools

The School Board of Flagler County (FL), nestled on Florida’s east coast south of St. Augustine and north of Daytona Beach, seeks highly motivated, result-oriented applicants for the position of Superintendent of Schools.

The current Superintendent, Mr. Jacob Oliva, has recently been selected as K-12 Vice-Chancellor with the Florida Department of Education.

With 13,000 students in traditional, virtual, and charter schools, Flagler Schools is seeking a visionary and innovative leader. The district’s vision is to be the nation’s premier learning organization where all students graduate as socially responsible citizens with the skills necessary to reach their maximum potential. Flagler is known for their 1 student to 1 computer Digital Learning Movement and their Flagship programs, which offer students opportunities to discover paths that lead students from classroom to career success. The School District of Flagler County schools are organized around a unique strategic plan and leadership framework from which all decisions are made. For more information on the Flagler Schools, visit: www.flaglerschools.com

Minimum qualifications for the position include the following:

  • Master’s degree or higher from an accredited institution
  • Certified or eligible for Florida certification in Education Leadership or equivalent
  • A minimum of ten (10) years’ experience in public education, including teaching, school-based administration and/or district-level executive experience
  • Education experience in district of 8,000 students or higher preferred
  • Knowledge of Florida’s student, school, and state accountability systems

Contract Terms and Salary – The School Board is prepared to offer, at minimum, a three-year contract with a salary range of $125,000 – $149,000 based upon experience, plus competitive benefits. Candidates selected as finalists must be available to participate in the on-site interview process during the week of April 24, 2017. Position start date is June 1, 2017.

Application Process and Deadline – To apply, candidates must complete and submit the following:

  • A completed Superintendent Application which can be found at: www.flaglerschools.com/apply
  • A signed cover letter with curriculum vitae (upload to application)
  • Three letters of reference (upload to application)
  • Documents verifying certification credentials including college transcripts (upload to application)
  • Evidence of your impact on student achievement in your school district (upload to application)

The completed on-line application form and all supporting information referenced above must be received no later than the deadline of midnight on March 17, 2017.

For additional information related to Flagler Schools or the application process contact:

Andrea Messina, Executive Director – Florida School Boards Association – 850.414.2578 or cell 850.566.1860

messina@fsba.org

Dr. Bill Vogel, FSBA Consultant – 321.299.2452 b2vogel@gmail.com
John Reichert, FSBA Consultant – 321-363-7909 jlreichert9@gmail.com

* IMPORTANT NOTICE * All resumes, applications, and other materials submitted for this position are subject to the Florida Public Records Act and “Government in the Sunshine” provisions of Florida law. Resumes, applications, and other materials cannot be held in confidence. 

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7 Responses for “Survey Gives You Chance To Tell Flagler School Board What You Want In Next Superintendent”

  1. PCer says:

    School Board… please get rid of the skinny/block schedule. The students, teachers, and parents can all see that it is a failure!

  2. G Lee says:

    A survey?? Are you kidding me?

  3. No Whining Zone says:

    I know I am “old school”, but was the word “academic” anywhere to be found?
    With all the emphasis on public relations and legalese, have we neglected what used to be fundamental to all education? While we look for someone who can navigate the labyrinth of law and politics, shouldn’t the individual also be a scholar? Please don’t forget we are looking for a leader for our “schools”.

  4. Heather says:

    I am surprised that a board with a dynamic blend of professional backgrounds went with such a traditional list of minimum qualifications.

    To me it is a picture of the disconnect many feel between K-12 and the “end product consumer” (AKA employers and post secondary institutions). The vacancy announcement is going to attract people versed in school administration, for sure, but ignores the important role a superintendent plays in the economic development (youth unemployment, out-migration, retaining and attracting businesses to the area) as well as the crucial role he or she should be playing in the successful transition from child to adult (work ready, college ready).

    I hope the board prioritizes finding someone who understands that post graduation success is the ultimate measure of a school’s success.

  5. I/M/O says:

    A “Survey?”

    If the School Board is going to conduct any “Survey” it should b a survey of the Teacher and Staff of our schools and not the general public who has little knowledge of Education Law at the national and State level in the State of Florida.

    I/M/O I am totally unqualified to answer this survey. I know where the schools are but have very little knowledge of how to administer a School District.

    So I will not answer this “Silly Survey” but simple state “Hire the best person who applies for the position and has a proven rack record of experience and success in the past.” Do not hire someone who needs On The Job Training or a political agenda.

  6. I/M/O says:

    Wow a whooping 5 comments on this.

    I hope FlaglerLive is going to follow up with the School Board as to “How many responses they got to their survey?”

    Readers will want to know.

  7. Diane says:

    How does one interview to be ” honest and charismatic ” ? Obviously you have been fooled before. The staff should be nervous and scared of new administrators. Maybe require a standard of teaching and demand the school strive for outstanding graduation percentages. Please get rid of the short list of candidates,they are probably the ” in house” good ole boys list. If you are truly looking for “strategic thinker ” you also must think outside your box.

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