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Waterloo school board discusses what it wants to see in new superintendent

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WATERLOO — Board of Education members shared their ideas Wednesday about priorities and preferred traits for a new superintendent.

The discussion, during a three-hour work session, followed input from Waterloo Community Schools’ residents through surveys completed in late October and early November and subsequent focus groups.

The board is seeking a new district leader to replace Superintendent Jane Lindaman, who is retiring effective July 1. Before launching into their own ideas, the board also received input from Lindaman about current “mission critical” work that she and the administration are involved in along with top leadership traits she identified.

Grundmeyer Leader Services of Ankeny is conducting the superintendent search on behalf of the board and began advertising for the position Nov. 24. Applications will continue to be accepted until Jan. 2. Some have already been submitted, according to the search firm.

Roger Wilcox of Grundmeyer presented the board with key qualifications community members suggested for the job, gleaned from the survey and focus groups. Several focus groups were held throughout the day Nov. 5. A total of 15 teachers, administrators, counselors and instructional coaches participated along with 14 community members who don’t work for the district.

“This is the information we collected. Now it’s up to you to decide as a school board,” he said, what is important to the search process.

Capoeira Kids is an after-school program at Royal Legacy Christian Academy. Here Sage Martin and Elisha Riehm, both 5, practice the martial art.

Board members listed many thoughts about students, staff, facilities and programs – some of which overlapped with the community input. But certain ideas surfaced that they most want to help shape the quest for candidates and the screening process that will precede interviews.

Board members prioritized a focus on equity in the education students receive across the district and addressing the achievement gap faced by some in its schools. They’re seeking candidates who would continue development of the Waterloo Career Center, which has 18 programs and is expected to grow to 30 after a building project now underway is completed. They also want the next superintendent to have a background in facilities and building projects as the board looks to improvements needed at the high schools.

In addition, they hope to find someone who really wants to work and live in the district.

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Flynn

“They have to be committed to Waterloo,” said board member Sue Flynn.

Wilcox said the board’s ideas will result in some adjustments to the job ad.

Input from the focus groups emphasized – among other things – the importance of trust and dialogue between the administration and staff, attention on instruction and learning from the superintendent, and greater delegation of responsibilities.

Trent Grundmeyer said the data his search firm collected indicates that whoever becomes the next superintendent will need to figuratively “wear good body armor” during their first year on the job. “They need a style where they’re a good listener (and) they don’t take things personally,” he said.

After applications are received, a pre-screening review of the candidates will happen with the board in closed session during the week of Jan. 10. The pool will be reduced at that point to eight or fewer semi-finalists, with initial interviews taking place through videoconferencing the week of Jan. 17. Finalists, which Grundmeyer recommends be reduced to three, would then be brought into the district the week of Jan. 24 for formal interviews.

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Education Reporter

I cover local schools and higher education for The Courier, where I’ve been a reporter for the past two decades. I’m a Minnesota native and have previously worked for newspapers there and in Illinois.

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