Jeffco board takes half-step in leader search

Update @ 8:05 p.m., Thursday: The Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education gave a nod during a Thursday evening work session to a tentative profile for its next superintendent and a promotional flyer a search firm will use for recruitment.

Board member Julie Williams requested more time to review the survey results that Iowa-based Ray and Associates, Inc., used to craft the profile and promotional material. The board agreed to allow the search firm to use the flyer, with minor edits, this weekend at a conference of school leaders. But they said they might want to make changes in the coming weeks.

Any updates, Ray and Associates search coordinator Bill Newman and Jeffco human resource chief Amy Weber said, could jeopardize the search because it could potentially set the entire process back.

Earlier this year, the board approved a tight timeline for its superintendent search. The board has said that they expect to choose the new superintendent by mid-May.

The most consequential change was the decision to reframe the copy on the promotional flyer regarding non-traditional candidates, or those applying for the job with little or no classroom experience.

According to the survey results and town hall meetings hosted by Newman, Jefferson County parents, teachers, students, and administrators said they want a leader with proven classroom experience.

The flyer previously read: “Jeffco Schools Seeks a Superintendent who … Is a non-traditional or ‘hybrid candidate’ with background in military business in addition to an education career.”

That language came from the preference of some board members reflected on the survey.

But at the request of board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman, responding to the feedback from teachers, parents and students, the flyer will read that the suburban district west of Denver is “open to” a non-traditional or hybrid candidate.

Dahlkemper and Fellman also pushed to include a line about ethnic and cultural diversity. Community respondents to the survey ranked that quality high. However, other members of the board rejected their request.

“Educating all children is the mission,” said board president Ken Witt. He said cultural sensitivity should be expected of any candidate and it was important to keep the recruitment material focused.

Prior to discussing the specifics of the profile and promotional material, Newman shared with the board broad themes he picked up on from his time with the community.

The community told him, he said, “we need someone who has a record of being a team builder. Staff morale needs to be addressed … and [Jeffco] does not need a change-agent for the sake of change.”

Newman recommended that the board aim to find a superintendent who can unify the board, which became visibly fractured during former-Superintendent Cindy Stevenson’s exit process.

A 5-0 vote for the next superintendent could “move the district forward,” he said.

Original postThe Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education tonight is expected to finalize the list of characteristics and qualifications it will use to select the next leader of the state’s second largest school district.

The conversation around that candidate profile could illustrate how close — and how far apart — the board’s majority and some parts of the district community are in what they’re looking for in a new superintendent.

The board is looking for a superintendent after Cindy Stevenson left the district in February, four months earlier than previously expected. Relations between the board’s three-member conservative majority and pockets of teachers and parents have eroded since November when the three new members were elected.

The candidate profile will be used by Iowa-based search firm Ray and Associates, Inc., to recruit candidates. The firm’s recommendations are based on results from a survey conducted by the search firm. They asked members of the districts’ various constituencies — including parents, teachers, and the board — to identify 10 qualities among a list of 33 characteristics identified by Ray and Associates that each group felt was most important for the ideal candidate.

According to documents posted to the board’s website, the firm is suggesting a list of attributes that describe the ideal candidate as someone who inspires trust, is able to delegate, has demonstrated strong leaderships skills in previous positions, and is able to identify and select school leaders, among other criteria. There are 12 recommend qualities in total.

Among the 12, the firm put five qualities that ranked highly among members of all focus groups in the top 10. In fact, one quality, “inspires trust, self-confidence, and models high standards,” was ranked as the most important by all constituencies surveyed.

Other qualities that the search firm is recommending the board consider include strong communication skills and sound management practices.

The seven other qualities the firm is recommending the board adopt in its profile were more mixed in their support from the various focus groups. “Has demonstrated strong leadership skills in previous positions” ranked 15th among all of the priorities rated by the focus groups. The ability to make data-driven decisions and recommendations was ranked 23rd.

That the ideal candidate is a “non-traditional or ‘hybrid’ with background in military, business and/or education” ranked 30th overall among all of the constituencies, but was still recommend by the firm because it was a top priority of the board, said Bill Newman of Ray and Associates. That quality was among the bottom three for all other subgroups, according to the report provided by the firm.

“If a quality ranks high for the board, it’s often going to be recommended,” he said. But, he added, the board will make the final decision tonight.

Data issues

A review of the raw totals posted on the board’s website this morning showed there were six responses listed from the board of education. But there are only five members.

Ray and Associates was alerted to the mistake — a board member voted twice — this morning by Jeffco officials, after the document had been posted. The firm corrected the results and the board has a corrected copy, Newman said.

The firm was unable to identify which member had voted twice, a representative from the company said. The error did not impact the overall outcomes, he said.

As of 4 p.m., the report had not been updated on the board’s website.

Original report annotated

Want to know how the recommend qualities stack up? Chalkbeat reporter Nic Garcia has annotated notes in this document.

Updates from Jeffco Board Meeting

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