Identifying the criteria for a new Davenport School District superintendent was the purpose of two community forums held Thursday night.
The school district hopes to have a new superintendent in place sometime in March, according to a consultant with a search firm specializing in national searches for school superintendents.
Constance Collins, a consultant with Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, told five people at the Achievement Service Center that she will gather their input to help build the ideal profile of a superintendent for the district.
Catarina Bolton, a leader of the District Wide Davenport PTO, said mental health should be a focus. She added that the district needs to celebrate its diverse student population.
Toby Paone, union representative and UniServ director at Iowa State Education Association, said the district has been on a “starvation diet from the state,” referring to the inequity in per-pupil funding the state receives compared to other districts. He said the new superintendent needs a high-energy level.
“It’s hard to know that this isn’t the target area for most people moving to the area, when it should be,” said parent Abby Gripp. “There’s no easy way to change people’s perception of where they want their kids to go to school.”
Schools advocate John De Taeye emphasized that declining enrollment should be addressed, adding that out of several school districts in the area “Everyone is growing except us.” He added that the district has not adapted to its urbanization.
Cari Johnson, social studies teacher at Central High School, said the superintendent should be someone “with the ability to think on the fly and make changes as needed.”
At a forum held at Davenport West High School, Denise Hollenbeck, Michelle Laake and state Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, spent an hour chatting with Ted Blaesing, a senior associate with the consulting firm. He was an associate superintendent of the Davenport district from 1982-1989.
For Laake, retired superintendent Art Tate personified the attributes she seeks. “I loved Dr. Tate,” she said. “He was always engaged, he was at everything. Every child knew Dr. Tate and I don’t know how he did it but he knew all these kids’ names.
“That’s my big thing, to stay engaged and stay in the classroom.”
Hollenbeck said that Tate set his office hours during the day so that he was out in buildings and not sitting in his office. “I think that was very well-received from the teachers’ standpoint.”
All three said that being visible both internally and externally is important.
“Leadership goes without saying, and leadership and engagement with faculty, staff, teachers; that interaction relationship building,” Hollenbeck added.
“We want someone that really wants the job,” Laake said. “Just having somebody who wants to be here and wants to see things grow. Not someone climbing to the next rung on the ladder or getting on to a bigger district.”
Winckler said the next superintendent also needs to be committed to the community. “If they have children you’d like to think their children would be enrolled in the district because you want your children to go to a school that you’re employed in.”
Hollenbeck brought a bit of serious humor to the forum when she said that, “It might be nice if they had experience in Iowa, and it might be nice if they didn’t have experience in Iowa. I guess I’m kind of torn on that.”
She explained that people outside can bring in great ideas, but someone within Iowa would know how to work within the system.
Tate, who previously had said he would retire June 30, resigned as of Wednesday. T.J. Schneckloth has been appointed interim superintendent while the search continues for Tate’s successor.