Keeping the Momentum Alive

Focus on the Classroom by Rosanne Winter

Upon hearing that his contract would not be extended, Superintendent Dennis Thompson told the Naples Daily News, “I am disappointed for the district. This is a huge momentum killer…. Once you have a vote of no confidence, it’s a year of maintaining. There will be no new initiatives.”

Let’s hope that the school board has other plans. The year can be spent very productively. Writing the criteria by which the new superintendent will be recruited, hired and evaluated will be a hugely important task, one in which the professional education community as well as the community at large should be involved. Those criteria should grow out of the goals of the district’s new strategic plan. Those goals include communications, community partnerships, family/parent involvement, governance, human capital, operations, quality learning experiences, and student, adult and system performance.

To ensure that the new board and the new superintendent start out on firm ground, three audits should be conducted. A financial audit will provide a new and independent picture of the district’s fiscal health. A program audit will help the new superintendent eliminate duplication and waste and find voids in our instructional resource allocations. And, a position audit will scrutinize the central office administrative ranks, again looking for duplication, voids and appropriate salary scales. By the time the new superintendent is in office, he or she will have a wealth of material with which to forge ahead without doubt or waste.

The board also should use this time to draft a new policy focusing on the recruitment, hiring and evaluation of all administrative personnel. This policy should stipulate inclusion in the process of all interested and qualified applicants. By posting openings internally and advertising externally for all open positions, the district would enhance its opportunities to find the best professional for each slot. The policy also should ensure that when a principal position comes open, the individual school’s community – including parents, faculty and, where appropriate, students – participates in the selection process, as formerly was the practice in Collier County.

As far as Dr. Thompson sitting back and watching all this activity and treating this as a maintenance year, the board should set specific and measurable short-term goals for our superintendent. Setting a clear expectation that he will ensure open communication and full disclosure to all auditing personnel would be a great place to start.

Finally, bloggers have lamented that with our history concerning superintendents, we will have a difficult time finding a new school leader. But why would that be? Just consider what we have to offer. We are an “A” district with good financial footing, in one of the most beautiful areas in the country. And, the district is willing to pay handsomely for a top-notch, collaborative instructional leader, one who knows how to communicate and who considers teachers, administrators, parents, and community members as assets rather than liabilities.

Collier County should not underestimate what it has to offer or what it should expect.

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