2014-03-21 / Front Page

Format is set for superintendent search

RSU 21 will collect opinions from a series of public forums
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK – The Regional School Unit 21 board of directors is collecting public input as they seek a person to replace Superintendent Andrew Dolloff, who will leave the district June 30.

Avenues through which the board is collecting data will be via three public forums in Arundel, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport in March and an online survey accessible on the district’s website.

“I think it is driven a little bit by (the fact that) we are a new district with three towns and we do want to make every effort we can to try and give folks an opportunity to have a voice,” said Kevin Knight, school board and search committee chairman.

“Since the RSU formed five years ago, that’s always been a concern,” Knight said. “We’re three separate towns, we want to make sure folks understand they have a voice.

“That’s a reason we’ll have one in all three towns as opposed to picking one location to have it,” Knight said in reference to the forums.

In selecting Dolloff as superintendent in 2009, the board sought the same level of public input, which included a very similar survey. The primary purpose of the survey is to gauge the highest-ranking leadership qualities among residents.

For example, the survey on the district’s website, which is also used by the Maine School Board Association and the National School Board Association, allows residents to check boxes to indicate what qualities of a new superintendent are most important to them.

Examples of options include being a resident of any of the three towns in the district, “a teacher in RSU 21,” “a student of RSU 21,” or “a member of the RSU 21 school board.”

Residents are then given the opportunity to rank characteristics they feel are most important. “In 2003 and 2009, the top two characteristics were the same: communication and leadership,” Knight said. “They’re pretty big and always areas where we can improve.”

Residents are then given the opportu- nity to rank, one through four, desired qualities of a new superintendent. The 14 qualities include staff development, leadership, ethics, communication, community relations and school/community involvement.

Each time the district selects a new superintendent, the pressing issues vary slightly, Knight said.

For example, personnel management and finance also ranked high among residents in 2003. In 2009, residents voted that the nominee’s ethics mattered more.

Once residents have completed the survey this time around, Knight said, “we’ll get a little bit of insight into how the leadership position is perceived now, and that’s what’s going to help shape which criteria we weight the heaviest when looking at candidates.”

Once the board narrows its choice of candidates, there will be at least two rounds of interviews, first with the board and then with a search committee comprised of select members of the public and RSU 21 faculty.

“That group will also have input on the final decision,” Knight said. “It’s really to allow the public to be aware of and to allow them to have some input in the process.”

“The most important aspect from our perspective is that the group is representative,” Knight said. “Faculty as well as community representation from each town. We’d like to look at having some folks who also don’t have children in the school system.”

The public forums are important to the selection process because they are “helpful in driving awareness just that the process is going on,” Knight said.

The forums are anticipated to be much less formal than recent forums on fiscal issues such as the Mildred L. Day School-Consolidated School-Kennebunk High School renovation project.

“The idea is to invite folks in and have a little bit more of a dialogue around the qualities of leadership we want to be looking for,” Knight said.

When asked if the board’s impetus for seeking public opinion was due to public scrutiny of its communication tactics after a $75 million renovation proposal failed Jan. 21, Knight said, “I’ll say yes, anyway. Right now, in everything we do it’s on our mind ... I do think that the board heard that message loud and clear.

“And to be honest I take issue with that perception, but if that’s the perception, we need to do better. ... Hiring the superintendent, in my opinion, is the most important thing we will do.”

The first public forum was Tuesday, March 18 at Mildred L. Day School in Arundel. The next public forum will be 7 p.m. Monday, March 24 at Consolidated School in Kennebunkport. The last public forum will be held 10 a.m. Saturday, March 29 at Kennebunk High School.

The Superintendent of Schools Survey can be found at the bottom of the page at www.rsu21.net.

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