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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Leavenworth Times editorial: Focus group feedback

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  • The issue: The Leavenworth School Board's ongoing search for a new superintendent.
    Our view: Board members were wise in choosing to consult the Kansas Association of School Boards and the public in the search, but officials must also use their own criteria given education's complexity in making final decision.
    We've all seen numerous times how government — local, state and federal — can botch even the most routine decisions because it acted counter to desires of the public it serves.
    Given this, it was reassuring to the Leavenworth Times on Monday night when the Leavenworth School Board met with Kansas Association of School Boards representatives to discuss findings from focus group meetings.
    The focus groups were paneled to provide KASB officials with traits the public hopes to see from its next Leavenworth school district superintendent.
    Attractive qualities KASB cited from the focus groups and relayed to School Board members: experience working in a diverse environment; community visibility; regular visits to schools; accessibility, personality and being approachable; and having a background in a district similar to Leavenworth, among others.
    Seven focus groups, including 93 school representatives, central office administrators, parents and patrons, met ahead of Monday's board meeting to discuss the ideal superintendent with KASB reps.
    It's hard to find much fault with the groups' list. All of those traits are indeed admirable, and who wouldn't want them from the next leader of our local school district?
    But, while the School Board's inclusion of KASB and the public is admirable, the newspaper cautions the governing body from using the focus group feedback as the sole guide in making its decision.
    The complexity of school funding finance, coupled with state and federal assessments, mandates and regulations, make education administration one of, if not the most, challenging of all public entities.
    And also the most important.
    There are simply few ways for school districts to control their financial outlook, so reading the budget landscape, forecasting revenues and tailoring short- and long-term planning to those educated guesses is critical.
    Additionally, school districts and educators are tasked with the challenging mission of meeting or exceeding heightened expectations with, in most circumstances, waning or flat funding.
    Navigating the choppy waters of assessments, and avoiding penalties imposed by state and federal officials for poor performance, is another must.
    The Leavenworth Times agrees with the focus groups — finding a leader with a quality resume and experience in a similarly-sized district is important.
    So too is having a visible, open superintendent who grows to know the community and its employees, teachers, staffers, parents and students.
    But, those traits are lower on the hierarchy.
    First and foremost, our next superintendent has to be focused on meeting his consumer's demand.
    Page 2 of 2 - In this case, that's providing a quality public education, preparing students for the next part of their academic, collegiate or adult lives, and doing so while meeting expectations on a budget without frills.
    It's a tough act, and here's hoping the search process is as rigorous and open throughout as its begun.

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