OUR OPINION: Superintendent criteria focuses on achievement

By NEMS Daily Journal

Tupelo’s public school district trustees acknowledged on Tuesday the need for keeping the education constituency informed with the release of an eight-point list of criteria in the search for a new superintendent to lead the district.
Trustees also said the brochure describing the opportunity would be distributed Nov. 1, with a Dec. 9 deadline for applications, followed by the start of the search evaluation process.
David Meadows was named interim superintendent when the former superintendent, Randy Shaver, at his request, was granted an early release from his contract in April.
Trustees, aware that the choice of the next superintendent will be viewed with intense community scrutiny, have been deliberate in building toward the application process.
The preparation included community hearings and focus groups. The Mississippi School Boards Association was hired to conduct the search, but it does not hire the next superintendent. That decision rests solely with the Tupelo Public School District trustees.
The criteria stated reflect a serious and thorough understanding that the district must make academic progress significantly beyond the marks that have resulted in a ranking of “academic watch,” which means students have not made enough progress in testing that measures year-to-year learning.
The first criteria defines the others: A proven track record as an instructional leader with a focus on increasing student achievement. The demographics of the TPS faculty, staff and larger community require the second: An ability to work with diverse groups.
The list also identifies consensus building, central staff and individual school leadership, communications skills, strong qualifications in school finance, with a doctorate preferred. When the board interview process begins in February the input received from the school district stakeholder meetings and online surveys this fall will shape the discussions – noteworthy importance placed on the views of the school district constituency.
Filling school leadership positions, like leadership in every other profession, demands contemporary understanding of challenges facing schools, students, teachers and parents.
The basic characteristics of well-managed districts remain discipline along with skilled instruction and achievement, but the methods of moving forward have changed dramatically under the influence of technology from even a decade ago.
That same technology has redefined how students relate to one another. The text message, for example, has replaced many face-to-face communications. The communications level and methods of students and schools must intersect more precisely and thoroughly, and leadership with contemporary technology skills can help lead that advance.
All school districts face similar challenges, and those melding the best of traditional methods with 21st century technology seem most likely to succeed and achieve in the longer term.