Meeting attendants consider qualities for school leader

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Experience, communication skills and a willingness to live in a rural area were among the characteristics community members said they would like to see in the Moffat County School District's next superintendent.

"They have to know where they're coming," said Phil Hastings, long-time Craig resident, former school board member and participant in the district's past two superintendent searches. "They have to be willing to communicate with the public, parents (and) administrators."

About eight local residents attended a public forum Monday night, facilitated by associates from the Moffat County School Board's superintendent search firm, Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, Ltd.

Monday's meeting was one of several scheduled for this week to gather input on the district's strengths and needs, as well as qualities stakeholders want to see in a replacement for Superintendent Pete Bergmann, who plans to retire at the end of the 2008-09 school year.

Rick O'Connell, Hazard, Young, Attea senior associate, and associate Ellen Bartlett lead the meeting, which asked attendants to list strengths and potential pitfalls of the district and the community.

Residents named good staff and administration and the district's ability to maintain a wide variety of classes and activities at Moffat County High School, even in the face of hard economic times, as items in the former category.

They also listed an abundance of outdoor activities and small-town friendliness as attractive qualities of the community.

Kelly-Anne Kirk, a first-year Craig Intermediate School teacher who has lived in Craig for eight years, has experienced the latter personally.

Kirk moved to Craig from Utah, where her children attended a parochial school. Her first impression of the Moffat County School District was a good one, she said at the meeting, adding that the Craig community "helped raise my children."

However, she added that the district's next superintendent and his or her significant other may have to adapt to qualities of Craig's rural life.

Difficulty retaining quality teachers, the boom-and-bust nature of the local economy and school funding, on local and state levels, were among other attributes attendants said they thought could prove challenging for the district's next leader.

Meeting participants listed what they saw as the school district's weaknesses, which included difficulty for non-advanced students to get into dual enrollment classes at the high school, some teachers' inability to teach to diverse learners and academic standards that aren't high enough.

Finally, attendants were asked to name qualities they'd like to see in the next superintendent.

Experience, as a superintendent and a teacher, and the ability to work with the district's finances, were among those characteristics.

In Hastings' view, Craig's character as a small community requires the next superintendent be able to communicate well with residents.

"In a community like this, (as) an individual, whether you're on the board or the school superintendent, people know you when you're in the grocery store," he said. "They talk to you in the grocery store, they talk to you in church, they talk to you in the mall.

"You have to be able to communicate and be willing to listen and not just brush them off, but honestly listen to them, because people know when an individual isn't doing that."

O'Connell and Bartlett said they will compile results from the community meeting and other focus groups in a report, which is scheduled to go before the school board at its December meeting.

Residents who were unable to attend Monday's meeting still can have their say in the superintendent search. Leadership Profile Assessments are available online at www.moffatsd.org under the "district news and communication" link.

Although the form reads that completed assessments are due Nov. 18, Bartlett said the firm will continue accepting the forms for another week to 10 days past the initial collection date.

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