The Hays USD 489 Board of Education made a good choice when selecting the Kansas Association of School Boards to handle the search for the next superintendent. Even better was the decision to utilize all the tools KASB offers in its recruitment package.
Max Heim, senior consultant for the Topeka-based organization, told board members in early October their input in determining the desired characteristics of potential candidates was critical. Then Heim said KASB also could gather similar information from other stakeholders such as staff, site councils, business representatives and community leaders.
"Some districts don't want to do it, but we recommend it," Heim said.
To its credit, the USD 489 board decided to go with the recommendation.
Starting Monday, representatives from KASB will be in the district soliciting input from a variety of groups -- including the public. Meetings will be held with teachers, administrators, staff and the district's facilities needs committee during the day, then wrap up with a 6 p.m. session with parents and community members. More internal discussions will take place Tuesday, with another 6 p.m. public meeting targeted for site councils, PTA, and home and school organizations.
Both evening public gatherings will be held at the Hays High School lecture hall. Administrators and school board members have been asked not to attend those in order to encourage open dialogue.
In order for any dialogue to take place, there must be participants. Which is the reason we are encouraging maximum turnout by you -- the public.
Whether or not you have kids in the system, the district's next hire should be considered important. From a taxpayer's perspective, USD 489 is by far the largest governmental entity in Ellis County. The district's budget for this year is $50.2 million, compared to $38.3 million for the City of Hays and $23 million for Ellis County. While many decisions made in Topeka and Washington, D.C., directly influence the ultimate size of every district's budget, local spending priorities initially are set by the local superintendent and staff.
Another aspect to consider is district patrons get the opportunity every two years to elect school board members. There is no mechanism in place for constituents to regularly express votes of confidence when it comes to the superintendent. It all depends on the respective tenure. In the case of the most recent superintendent, Will Roth, his reign lasted less than three years. The person he replaced, Fred Kaufman, was in the district for 26 years.
The point is this could be one time your voice can be heard on this particular hire. The board of education is seeking a long-term individual to guide the district for years to come.
If your schedule allows, plan on committing 45 minutes or so either Monday or Tuesday evening. Both nights' sessions begin at 6 p.m. If you need any other information, don't hesitate to contact Elizabeth Jaeger, assistant to the superintendent, at (785) 623-2400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry