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Community asked to take part in survey on permanent superintendent

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Sep 9, 2021

A survey has gone live for what the community would like to see in its new superintendent for the School District of Lee County.

The English Survey can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VS3NWT7; the Spanish Survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VTGFV8Q and the Haitian Creole Survey can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VZJGH3V. The survey can also be found on the district’s website, www.leeschools.net. The community will have the opportunity to answer the survey until 8 a.m. Oct. 7.

Board Chair Debbie Jordan said it is very important that they seek everybody’s input as the superintendent’s role is very important to the board and the district.

“In going forward and looking for our permanent superintendent we don’t want to be the only people putting our two cents in. We want to make sure we are reaching out to the community, teachers, staff and business leaders,” she said.

The survey asks individuals to rank their top 10 characteristics that are most important in the selection of a superintendent candidate out of 31 qualities.

“What is the most important thing that you believe this candidate needs to posses,” Jordan asked.

The survey asks if the community is looking for a business person, or one who has a background in education.

There also is a place where individuals can answer the question, “What would you like prospective candidates to know about your district and community?”

Participants are asked what group they represent –teacher, administrator, support staff, parent, student, or non-parent community member.

“I am excited to see what comes out of the survey and what the community and our teachers and staff, what everybody is looking for in that leader position,” Jordan said.

Jordan said Ray & Associates, the firm the district hired to help with the search of a permanent superintendent, will take the results and combine them to ensure the process is transparent. She said they will share what they believe the majority of people are looking for in a superintendent.

Jordan said it is important that all the board members get the same information at the same time.

“We are really listening and hearing what is being sent to us. In the end, we have to make that decision,” she said. “When we are speaking to the candidates that will be something we can ask, those questions, because we know it is very important.”

Staff within the school district were among the first to receive the survey.

“We believe our staff is really important and this is a person they will be working for, if you will,” Jordan said.

The survey was then sent to parents before it was given to the community through such groups as chambers, business leaders in the community and the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools.

“We do want to hear what everybody is saying and what is important for this candidate to posses,” Jordan said.

Board Member Gwyn Gittens said the survey is a good way to gather input, but her concern is communication. She asked if people are really going to provide input, participate, or not for various reasons.

“When I talk about public input, I talk about across the board. I want to hear from everybody ,” Gittens said.

She said the East Zone is one of the largest districts per capita and it is the most diverse with greatest language barrier.

“I have to continue to think what do these people think. Do they know they can give an opinion,” Gittens said. “Are we communicating well enough to them and simply enough.”

Individuals need to realize they have a voice and the survey is one way they can use it to express their thoughts about the permanent superintendent, she added.

“We are a 60 majority, 40 percent minority district. Are we hearing enough from those working-class families with multiple children in our school system?” Gittens asked.

Another concern was the wordiness of the survey and how it seems to be directed to a certain demographic. She said it does not appear that is looking for a parent, or student’s opinion.

“I am not drawn to this because of the way it is worded.” Gittens said. “I want to make sure we get information from everybody. I don’t see a lot of our average demographic of parents going on(line) and doing this.”

A Facebook Live Town Hall with Gittens will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, to discuss the survey and answer any questions the public may have, as well as share the importance of the public’s participation. Individuals can participate in her Facebook town hall by visiting Gwynetta Holloway-Gittens.

In addition to the survey, the community also will have the opportunity to join a town hall meeting on Sept. 21 and Sept. 22. Jordan said Ray & Associates did not want board members to be at the community meetings, which would allow the community to speak freely and share their thoughts.

Gittens said with the town halls she wants to hear what education leadership looks like to parents and kids.

The school board has chosen the 60-day timeline, which will include posting the superintendent position in October, with an application deadline of Dec. 13. The week of Jan. 10, preliminary interviews of semi-finalists will be done by the board. Finalist interviews will be conducted the week of Jan. 17.

“What the firm has said to us is that November and December, the holiday times, is the best time to look for a superintendent,” Jordan said. “That is why we are beginning the process. We have our timeline that we agreed upon and will adhere to that. We will not deviate from that timeline.”