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Watch now: Here's what Decatur wants to see in a new superintendent

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Tuesday's Decatur Board of Education meeting included a discussion of qualities the community would like to see in a new superintendent. Former Superintendent Paul Fregeau left the district in June. READ MORE HERE.

DECATUR — The next superintendent of Decatur Public Schools will need the qualities of a Superman, or Wonder Woman, and will need to hit the ground running to take on a variety of tough challenges and problems.

That is the upshot from an extensive public survey of more than 1,000 participants who numbered teachers, support staff, parents, students and taxpayers. Their feedback could help inform the search to replace former Superintendent Paul Fregeau, who left in June to take a job with another district

A report presented to Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting by Constance Collins, an associate of HYA, the search firm tasked with hunting up the ideal superintendent candidate, actually runs to 16 pages listing strengths and weaknesses of the entire district and then the qualities needed to address them.

But distilling the list down to what the public, teachers and students want to see in their new leader comes down to several major concerns:

“Commitment to DPS for the LONG TERM and not just 'three and out,'” was one prominent recommendation. Superintendents who sail through and out of the district without making a longer-term commitment to follow their policies are clearly not popular.

Other requirements presented in the HYA report are: “Demonstrated successful experience in racially diverse, highly engaged communities.”

“Demonstrates empathy, compassion, kindness and caring for district students, staff and the community.”

“Integrity, honesty and transparency.”

“Courageous, confident, thick-skinned, yet humble.”

“Authentically collaborates and engages all voices.”

It goes on like that for a full 10 recommendations as HYA sets off to scour the nation looking for the men and women who bring all this, and more, to the table. HYA says it will have a slate of around six candidates ready by early November and then the board, with expert help, will have to figure out how much it's willing to pay the superintendent of its dreams.

Decatur Superintendent Paul Fregeau bids the district farewell. 

It will also have to decide, said Collins, how much the public will be involved in the selection of the winning candidate. 

The HYA sampling of feelings in the school district also goes on to list the challenges that face that successful candidate and they don’t make for pleasant study.

Number one is “unpacking and tackling the reputation and/or reality of low academic performance; the negative impact of poverty, crime, past boards (of education) and powerful unions; unfriendly media; and developers/realtors promoting neighboring districts.”

And on top of that is ensuring all students “are included”, no matter how poor or marginalized they are, and guiding the board and district in clear communication about why important decisions were taken.

Another job for the new superintendent will be tackling the perceptions of Decatur Public Schools held by taxpayers without children in the schools, which are frequently on the negative side.

“... The new leader will need to be highly and authentically visible and engaged with the entire community,” the HYA report concluded.


Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid


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