Results of stakeholder survey released in Albert Lea superintendent search

Published 8:57 am Friday, May 6, 2022

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Members of the Albert Lea Area Schools Board of Education were treated to some good news Thursday during a special meeting in their search for a new superintendent from the search firm as it related to the recent stakeholder survey.

“There were 616 individuals who responded to the survey,” said Jeff Olson, project lead for Minnesota School Boards Association. “I think that’s really an outstanding response.”

According to Olson, the typical response for these types of surveys is around 12%. But 12% within the school district amounts to 425 respondents. The responses came from a mix of parents, staff members and community/business members.

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Olson said the responses also reflected what board members discussed when crafting their vacancy brochure such as collaborative leadership, honesty and ethics, the ability to develop and direct an effective leadership team, being a problem solver and being an effective communicator.

Other comments found in the report included the district having a caring, capable and collaborative staff, the community being excited about the progress the district is making in facilities, professional development, student academic success and access to technology and schools doing everything they can to meet student needs.

Concerns expressed included the community having different visions for the district moving forward and wanting a superintendent who is able to bridge the differing opinions and rebuilding trust in the community, addressing the problems of recruiting and retaining staff, wanting the district to focus on the impact of the pandemic in regards to student learning and motivation and wanting to implement programs addressing student mental health and discipline.

Respondents also want the next superintendent to be visible, collaborative and a strong communicator both within the district and in the community. They want a superintendent who is personable, strong-willed, transparent, supportive and has strong leadership skills, and they want someone who understands the history and demographics of the community.

The board will have a special meeting at 5 p.m. May 17 to determine finalists and review interview questions and procedures, and finalists names won’t be revealed until they are selected to be interviewed by the board.

The second day of first-round interviews (May 24) has been moved to 1 p.m. because it falls on a primary election day. The May 23 interviews are still scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

“There cannot be board meetings between 6 and 8 p.m. on that day,” he said.

During interviews, board members won’t be allowed to ask questions about protected categories (i.e. race or color, national origin, religion or creed, age, sexual orientation) or ask indirect questions that may violate one or more protected categories (i.e. how much longer do you plan to work before you retire). They are also prohibited from asking questions that are not job-related (i.e. will you live in the district).

He also stressed to board members the importance of looking at the positive attributes of candidates.

“Generally the round one questions are more general in nature, you have a few more,” he said. “In a way, think of it as screening more. You’re taking a look at these four, five or six candidates and you’re asking them these 13 questions, and there are a broad number of topics.”

The second round of interviews is still scheduled for 4 p.m. May 26, with the board scheduled to select a new superintendent that same day. If the board doesn’t like any of the candidates, an interim will be selected.

As of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, MSBA had received two applications for the superintendent position, although Olson is hopeful more candidates will apply as the next Tuesday application deadline draws closer. He said a typical superintendent search draws six to 10 candidates.

Olson said he has spoken to potential candidates who expressed interest but were also nervous about the timing and where they currently sit in their districts.

“That doesn’t mean they won’t apply,” he said. “They may very well, but they’ve really got an interest in the district. But there’s a little concern on the timing.”