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Superintendent choice a big responsibility

Of all the decisions facing a school board, hiring a superintendent is up there at the top. Dixon School Board members are about to embark on a superintendent search. We wish them success.

Published: Saturday, June 28, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Hiring a superintendent is one of the most important responsibilities ever faced by a school board of education.

The Dixon School Board recently announced that it plans to begin the process from inside the district, rather than hiring an outside search firm, to replace retiring Superintendent Michael Juenger, who will step down a year from now.

That appears to be a sound approach, given that the board has time on its side.

According to a tentative timeline, the district will post the job opening in September. Candidates will then submit applications, which must be screened to find applicants suitable for the interview process. After finalists are chosen and interviewed, the board will vote on hiring a new superintendent, likely by the end of this year.

The early posting of the vacancy ought to bring forth top-quality candidates, Juenger believes.

And, by having district staff handle the search, Juenger said the district could save at least $6,500 – another good reason to conduct the search process from within.

Since Juenger came on board in 2009 (he previously was a school superintendent in Litchfield), the school district has faced financial woes, stagnant enrollment, a teachers strike in 2013, this year’s closure of Lincoln School, and the continuing dilemma of what to do with its aging schools.

The new superintendent will face challenges of his or her own – some being carryovers from the present administration, and others that we can’t now foresee.

What qualities should the new superintendent have?

Because an organization usually takes on the traits of its leader, the board should look for superintendent candidates with outstanding character, who are trustworthy, fair, responsible, caring, and respectful.

The successful candidate should be a good leader, listener, administrator, problem-solver, and diplomat.

Experience is a plus, but enthusiastic, younger candidates ought to be given a serious look.

The new superintendent will have a big job ahead: providing the best 21st-century education possible for Dixon students despite a not-so-strong economy and the state government’s precarious financial condition.

Doing that while trying to please school board members, parents, teachers, staff, taxpayers, and state and federal bureaucrats won’t be an easy task.

The school board would be wise to involve community members in the superintendent search process as much as possible.

With the community’s wisdom and buy-in, board members might just find this important responsibility a bit easier to perform.

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