Guest column

Now is not the time to select a new Douglas County School District superintendent

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One of the chief responsibilities of a school board is the selection of a district superintendent. Choosing the right person will attract talented teachers to the district, capitalize on operational strengths and challenge all students to reach their highest academic potential. 

The timing of that selection is equally important. Erin Kane is currently serving on an interim superintendent contract for the Douglas County School District that is scheduled to end on Sept. 1 of this year. Additionally, four of the seven school board seats are up for election in 10 months. For these reasons, beginning the search for a new superintendent at this time isn't fair, prudent or judicious.

Selection of a new leader a few months ahead of an election isn't fair to the newly elected board who will assume responsibility following the November 2017 election. The new board should be given an opportunity to shape the trajectory of the district.  That may result in a permanent contract for Ms. Kane or it may not, but the voters should have their voices heard. Starting a wide search now is also unfair to teachers and principals who deserve to know who will be evaluating their performance and casting a vision for the district.  

Moreover, a search for a new superintendent isn't prudent.  Douglas County has 87 schools and more than 67,000 students. Large organizations take time to integrate cultural change and adopt new habits. Ms. Kane is the third person to assume the responsibility of superintendent over the last year. Signaling a leadership change after Ms. Kane is just four months into the job is not in the best interest of the district. 

The district needs certainty, stability and predictability.

Lastly, changing superintendents now isn't judicious because it will be difficult to attract top talent.  In general, school district hiring cycles aren't conducive to the timeline the board would have to consider.  Besides, what superintendent would be interested in accepting a major position a few months ahead of a substantial election that could change his or her entire direction in that role? Or worse, that could see him or her losing that position?

Douglas County students, parents and staff deserve consistency and a steady hand at the wheel. Ms. Kane has righted a turbulent ship in a short period of time. 

At the board's Jan. 17 meeting, we will have an opportunity to extend her interim contract through the next school year. This is a common-sense step that demands the support of the board.   

Steven Peck serves as the director for District E on the Douglas County School District Board of Education.

Comments

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Parent in DCSD

The superintendent vacancy occurred in May 2016 - several months ago. I am curious why the board did not choose to begin their search at that time. At the same time, I appreciate that they did not begin the search then, because, as Director Peck points out, a newly elected board may wish to move in a different direction, the direction the majority of voters favor as evidenced by the landslide victory of the three most recently elected board members. Director Peck was appointed to the board by the board president just a couple of months ago. In 2015, Douglas County voters rejected the three incumbent reform board members, and it is very likely that a well informed community will reject the current reform board members (Reynolds, Geddes and Peck) if they run again, given their poor track record, including wasteful spending of untold millions of taxpayer dollars (not budgeted and not tracked, so who knows how much higher it is than the $12 million that has been reported) on pet projects that were not only unnecessary but have now been proven (as predicted by concerned community members) to be flawed and will be scrapped. Learn more by visiting www.DouglasCountyParents.com and www.StrongSchoolsCoalition.org. The loss of educational hours and opportunities by our children is the additional price we taxpayers have paid for the reform board members' mistakes. Vote for a new majority in 2017 and we can turn our declining district around.

Wednesday, January 11 | Report this
Ourkids

Mr. Peck makes some reasonable and valid points. Turnover at the highest level for any organization is not a good sign. It is also a caution for those who may consider moving into the district or bringing businesses to Douglas County. The process for selecting the talent for the highest leadership position of the district should be well thought out. Predictable, the person representing the DouglasCountyParent group and Stong Schools Coalition in the pervious comment, continues to spread misinformation and political divisiveness even when it isn't warratted. Parents and students in the district have grown weary of this tactic and the thug behavior by members of those groups, and the Board of Education Directors who support them, on diplay at school board meetings. The jeering, sneering and constant kicking of the chairs of those with whom they disagree is telling of how those parents/teachers and directors want to rule the education for our kids. Thousands of families have supported the freedom and options they now have for the education they want for their kids which is evident by the enrollment and waitlists at the Charter schools. It is understandable how the anti-innovation and growth mentality would be threatened by this success. The majority of parents want more of the reasoned thought process Mr. Peck displays in his comments and the collaboration that can ensue by having thoughtful instead of divisive leadership.

Thursday, January 12 | Report this
Parent in DCSD

Clearly, "Ourkids" does not understand what has been happening in this district for the past several years. Go ahead and bash me, but I and my children have been affected by this divisiveness that the board majority has fomented, and I'm done with it. We are past time to turn things around here. And having a brand new director, whose own children do not attend DCSD schools, and who was clearly handpicked by the board president to do her bidding, tell us that they shouldn't choose a new superintendent now because the time is too short - well, that's just too much. They've had months to start the search. Those of us who have been involved in trying to save our district from this destruction know better. We have an unprecedented 4 schools on improvement plans this year, and it looks like more are on the way. Our once great district is headed downward, no longer leading vs. our neighboring districts, but settling into the back seat. Is that what you really want? I certainly don't.

Thursday, January 12 | Report this
3@DCSD

The search for the right person has not begun at the fault of Director Silverthorne. Her mumblings for not beginning the search are unacceptable.

At BOE Meetings, Kane is like a bad game show host awarding prizes she knows nothing about and introducing presentations the same way. She is incapable of answering a question.

In email communication, Kane writes with a folksy tone indicating we are all good friends.

Kane has wasted valuable time on unnecessary activities.

Kane lacks professionalism, knowledge and experience. Don't they all at DCSD Admin? Shuffling the incompetence will yield the same deterioration as it has in the last 6 years.

The District needs professionals who consider the students' best interest.

Friday, January 13 | Report this
DCResident

Having served as a past Executive Director of a non-profit, I believe the decision to delay the superintendent search is prudent. A quality candidate could not be hired in the current climate. Erin Kane has been a sound interim choice. I had an opportunity to speak with her at length about the state of the district, and while her personality is more vibrant than the "dry toast" of typical administrators (and therefore may be perceived as less professional), she is intelligent and makes decisions in the best interest of students.

Going forward: It is important that the school board and the community set a direction for the district based upon sound educational research and not what's trendy or popular, or oppose a direction just because the person championing it is not a favorite. The current "lobbying" parent groups are not the answer as they are emotionally charged and bias. Given likely changes at the federal level, school choice is here to stay and will only be strengthened. Engaged parents will seek alternatives to our disorganized district and vouchers will gain momentum. Rather than become a district for those with no other choice, we must be the district of choice. I have worked with schools of all types (public, private, charter), state and federal education departments, and parent organizations. The debate between what type of school kids learn best in is irrelevant. It all comes down to leadership: 1) High quality administrators hiring and rewarding excellent teachers and dismissing those who would be better in another career, allocating resources to improvements that directly impact student learning, and promoting a culture of high achievement for teachers, students, and families. 2) Staff who carryout their duties efficiently and in students' best interests (for example: a food service director who develops a menu of tasty, healthy foods & lunch servers who smile and ask kids about their day make a huge difference). 3) Parents/guardians serving as leaders of their families who hold their children accountable for their behavior and academic achievement and hold school leaders & teachers accountable for their behavior and use of public resources. 4) A leadership team with knowledge of youth development and effective education strategies (the information in peer reviewed research journals, not the opinion pages of newspapers), what teachers need to be their best, and how to support administrators, teachers, and families in educating our county's children.

A thriving school district is essential to the success of our young people. For their sake, let's work together to give them every opportunity to learn and make a difference in our community. A civil, professional school board meeting would be a good start.

Wednesday, February 1 | Report this
3@DCSD

DCResident has quite the lengthy reply, yet I saw no mention of having any students in the District. From experience - 3 students in the last 16 years and the last 6 years have negatively impacted each on multiple occasions.

DCSD Admin has no professionals nor the semblance of integrity.

Have you watched a Board Meeting? "If I were queen for a day" are words used by Kane at a meeting. Perhaps the Elementary Schools can accept her, but she's perpetuating the destruction of neighborhood high schools.

Thursday, February 2 | Report this
Observer

The district has many schools with very different principles and teachers. I'm not sure how one parent's experience (though be it 16 years) makes him/her an expert. There is a reason many school boards do not allow current parents on them. It's a conflict of interest.

The district would be best having a team of outsiders review/evaluate the schools and recommend improvements. Some DCSD schools are excellent, others failing. I'm glad reference was made to using unbiased educational research as a guide, though quite frankly, I'm not sure why everyone makes this seem so hard. The purpose of a school is to educate kids. Reading and writing haven't changed much in the past centuries. As long as kids can read, write, do math, understand scientific principles and have a basic understanding of American and World history, they can choose their own learning paths and dive into other areas as career interests develop.

Thursday, February 2 | Report this
3@DCSD

Replace the Reformers with industry experienced individuals whose agenda is in the interest of the students, teachers, and community. Students are not widgets. I agree that this should not be difficult - with well intentioned professionals.

Friday, February 3 | Report this
Bill

This is a page out of the GOP handbook when they blocked Supreme Court Justice nominee Merrick for a year to ensure they got what the wanted. A good superintendent should able to work for any board regardless of their political affiliation. More smoke and mirrors from four of seven board members who's mission is really not centered around kids..

Sunday, February 5 | Report this