SCHOOL COMMITTEE NEWS: Superintendent Search Heats Up; Candidate Profile Finalized; Selection Committee Taking Shape

WILMINGTON, MA — At its latest meeting, the Wilmington School Committee took another major step forward in its superintendent search.

After reviewing and analyzing community input from more than 400 individuals via a series of focus groups and an online survey, the Committee created a Successful Candidate Profile, a document “designed to guide the interview and selection process during the Superintendent search.”

The Successful Candidate Profile identifies THREE areas that the School Committee would like the district’s superintendent to have a “significant depth of skill and knowledge in” — (1) Change Leadership, (2) Communication, and (3) Operation Management. Candidates that display strength in these areas will be given preference by the screening committee.

Change Leadership indicators include:

  • An innovator with strong leadership execution skills; able to envision and lead focused, planned, well-paced and supported change that builds on the strengths of the district and respects community and district values; able to make change without alienating people
  • A knowledgeable, informed educational leader who understands that Wilmington seeks to be noted as among the high(est) achieving districts in Massachusetts
  • A leader who understands the need for, and will ensure, district-wide, consistent, equitable, vertically and horizontally aligned and executed standards and expectations for curriculum, instruction, student achievement, communication, practices and policies
  • A personable, open and approachable leader who is able to mobilize the tremendous energy in the district; one who rolls up his/her sleeves and is out in the schools and district, talking and collaborating with parents, teachers, staff, students and community members to build and execute unifying, clear and consistent expectations
  • A leader who makes it a priority to provide quality professional development that supports teachers and administrators and ensures that they have the knowledge and skills needed to meet or exceed district and job expectations
  • A leader who ensures that all student services, including special education services and AP programs, are aligned with the district’s vision and expectations and are led and staffed by highly qualified professionals
  • A leaders who has a proven track record for hiring talented, knowledgable, effective and skilled professionals to serve in key leadership positions; a leader who mentors and supports leaders to ensure he or she builds a cohesive, respected administrative team and fosters leadership from within
  • A leader who ensures that the district provides consistent, high-quality PK-12 programs to support and address the health and safety needs of students, including students’ social and emotional health and wellbeing; will hire key personnel in this area and ensure that the program(s) are well staffed and supported with relevant professional development
  • A leader who is skilled in the uses of educational technology and who is able to guide the district in ensuring Wilmington’s students and staff have and use technology to support student achievement

Communication indicators include:

  • A leader who demonstrates excellent written, oral, presentation and communication skills
  • A leader who engages in open, honest, consistent, proactive and timely communication with all constituents; someone able to seek and share information through multiple media (social media, Twitter, emails, updates…)
  • Someone able to present and defend a position, and to listen to and incorporate the ideas of others whether in a large group, small group or one-to-one discussion
  • Someone who will be, and who will be seen to be, a knowledgeable spokesperson for the district
  • A leader who will collaboratively develop and expect a consistent, district-wide method and tone for all staff to communicate with parents and vice versa; someone who will ensure that the district website is up-to-date, informative and easily navigated
  • Someone with a healthy understanding of social media — its uses, drawbacks, and abuses — and who communicates and models an expectation that communication will occur in a respectful manner and through expected district channels; a leaders who respects the chain of command
  • A leader who knows that staff and parents want to be informed; someone who understands the importance of providing well-advertised, organized forums for parents, students and staff communication as well as channels for parents, students and staff to express concerns, offer ideas and to seek support; ensures prompt response to questions and input
  • A leader who is calm under pressure, who keeps his/her eyes on the prize; who understands the decisions will be met with questions and possible push-back; who is reflective and able to step back and look a situation calmly; someone who ensures he or she is well informed before making a decision
  • A leader who celebrates and communicates the achievements and positives; someone who builds a sense of team and pride in the district

Operation Management indictors include:

  • A leader able to successfully build and defend a budget and to manage resources well
  • A strong administrator experienced with fiscal management and demonstrated ability to develop strong credibility with Finance Committee and municipal leaders
  • A collaborator who will work in partnership with Town Manager
  • Someone who is skilled at assessing capital improvement/facilities needs; capable of understanding and contributing to the town’s master facility plan
  • An experienced leader with proven ability to work successfully and effectively with a School Committee
  • An administrator with a demonstrated history of developing community partnerships and outreach in order to expand opportunities for students

In addition to the three areas of emphasis, the School Committee will also be looking for a candidate with the following type of experience:

  • A leader who has a background in successful classroom teaching
  • Someone with knowledgeable/experience at multiple grade levels
  • A leader who has a strong curriculum background
  • A leader who is very strong in special education

Before unanimously approving the Successful Candidate profile, School Committee Chair Steve Bjork asked that a bullet about empathy and compassion — hallmarks of former Superintendent Joanne Benton — be included as a desired trait.

Screening Committee Makeup Finalized

The School Committee unanimously selected Jennifer Bryson and Peggy Kane to serve as its representatives to the Screening Committee.  (Earlier in the process, Kane was recusing herself because she has a family member employed by the district.  The State Ethics Commission has since advised her she CAN participate in the process with the necessary disclosures.)

After a lengthy discussion, the School Committee, in a 5-1 vote, agreed to add a fourth parent representative to the screening committee and selected all four parents who applied to serve via their respective PACs.  (The vote was a blind vote — School Committee members did know the identities of the parents, just their qualifications.) The same vote also added a second principal to the screening committee, per the unit’s request.

The names of the 16 screening committee members have not yet been released.  Bryson, Kane, and Selectman Greg Bendel — serving as the Selectmen’s representative — are known participants.

The screening committee is scheduled to hold its orientation meeting on Thursday, January 4.  The search process’s overall timeline remains on schedule with the screening committee expected to select 3-5 finalists by early February, and the School Committee making its final selection by early March.

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