Board picks criteria for KISD chief

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Kilgore ISD board of trustees has settled on a list of qualifications and characteristics they would like to see in candidates for the district superintendency.

As a special Monday meeting, the board discussed the list with Joe Dan Lee, a Texas Association of School Boards representative helping the board find qualified candidates. Lee told the board the list of qualifications will help them narrow down the list of interested applicants.

“During the application process, each applicant will have to respond to each one of these qualifications and characteristics. When we get all of our applications in, and I’m going to guess 50 is going to be a good round number, it may be 40, it may be 60, but you’re probably going to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 applications. Out of those 50, we’re going to be able to narrow those down to 10 or 12 pretty quickly that are really credible candidates and that’s normal in a search,” Lee told the board.

Lee explained the board could then use the responses provided by the applicants to narrow the applicant pool from 10 or 12 to about six. Those final candidates could then move on to the next phase of the process: an initial interview.

“The truth will come out when you read what they’ve written to these qualifications and characteristics we have,” Lee said.

The district has been seeking a permanent superintendent since former superintendent Cara Cooke announced her resignation in July. Interim superintendent Mike Morrison has assumed the role since his appointment July 27.

Lee explained he compiled the list of characteristics from the results of an online leadership questionnaire completed by district faculty and board members, conversations with Morrison and his own experience working with Texas schools.

The list contained eight qualifications, including that a candidate must be willing to live in the district, an effective communicator and an experienced leader with a record of improving student performance. The list also specified a candidate must be able to hold staff accountable for their actions while building trust with the community and delegating staff to carry out responsibilities.

Lee told the board they were free to accept, reject or change any of the qualifications on the provided list. However, he recommended they keep the list of qualifications to fewer than 10 items.

Trustee Scott Montgomery questioned the description of “an effective communicator,” saying the language should more specifically describe a person who communicates in a straightforward, “very cut-and-dried” manner.

“I need somebody that is going to work here that’s not going to leave our staff and teachers guessing about what they need to do,” Montgomery said.

Trustee Dereck Borders said he would like to see a candidate eager to live in Kilgore but wanted candidates to be committed to the district, not just its location, and not someone aiming to use the post as a stepping stone to another job.

Lee replied a candidate willing to work in Kilgore would not likely view the job as a stepping stone because there were not many other superintendent positions available in the area at schools of a similar size.

Trustee Alan Clark said he wanted to see candidates with superintendency experience, some type of administrative experience at the high school level and preferably someone with children who would enroll in KISD.

While Clark said a candidate with kids enrolled in KISD would be more committed to the district’s success, Borders and board president Reggie Henson cautioned such a situation could be

“a double-edged sword.”

“Where we’ve had problems in the past when we’ve had superintendents with kids in the district, is our people in the district felt a lot of pressure to maybe cater to those kids’ programs or those kids’ activities,” Borders said.

Lee told the trustees many of their concerns will be addressed by the rigorous interview process and many qualified candidates were interested in the job.

“This job is drawing a lot of interest,” he said. “I was very pleased with the number of people who have come to me this past weekend to discuss this job. I think you’re going to have a good pool to choose from.”

Lee said the interview process will include two primary interviews. The first will be closely scripted, with each trustee asking three pre-written questions, while the second will be more conversational.

Lee said the trustees would get the results of the leadership survey from TASB on Tuesday, October 9 and the application deadline for the position would be October 31. He plans to meet with the board again on Tuesday, November 6 to review the candidates.

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