Choosing new D-181 superintendent no easy task

HINSDALE – To date, choosing the next superintendent of District 181 has incorporated input from staff, administration, residents and all district stakeholders.

But choosing that candidate is no easy task as the district and BWP & Associates had to narrow a pool of 44 applicants to just six. Interviews for those six candidates wrapped up Monday, and now anywhere from one to three candidates will be called back for a second interview.

Here’s how the district got to this point:

Schuster steps down

At the Feb. 10 Committee of the Whole meeting, Superintendent Renee Schuster was released from her contract, per her request, as she plans to return to St. Louis at the end of the school year to be closer to her parents. She served as superintendent since 2010.

“It was a very hard decision, but family is always first,” Schuster said during the meeting. “This is a great community and we’ve got great students, great teachers and great leaders.”

Search starts

In March, the search was underway for the next superintendent. District officials gathered input from a number of sources through an online survey and a focus group hosted by BWP & Associates, which is leading the search.

What was gathered

An array of data was collected and formulated into a superintendent candidate profile, which describes the desired characteristics and experiences sought in the next superintendent. The information was synthesized by BWP & Associates and presented April 7 to the Board of Education.

“Really, what we do with this profile is it’s for us to use to describe the desired characteristics and experiences that people in the stakeholder groups, and people who have done the survey, have described to us,” BWP & Associates representative Mark Friedman said.

Who provided input?

• Focus groups included certified and classified district staff, District 181’s Parent Teacher Organization, administrators and parent and community groups.

• Survey garnered 332 respondents

What BWP & Associates heard from responses

• The strengths: Students, teachers and staff, parents and community support, resources, high expectations and facilities (except Hinsdale Middle School)

• The challenges: Communication, Hinsdale Middle School facilities, administrator turnover, trust and morale

“While it says ‘except Hinsdale Middle School,’ we got a lot of feedback from people saying ‘we know you’re working on it, but right now it’s not the measure of our other facilities,’ ” Friedman said.

• Characteristics sought: experienced leader, curriculum expertise, communicator, facility manager, clear vision and good evaluator

“This is a big district,” Friedman said. “This district has a lot of expectations and it will be a very difficult place for someone who’s not experienced.”

• Characteristic most sought: relationship builder

“It’s always the number one priority with anybody who’s new in an organization,” he said. “If they build relationships and do a good job of that, other things are going to fall into place.

“If they come in and expect things to happen for them, they probably won’t be successful.”

Endpoint

A decision to hire a new superintendent could come before the end of the month, but as interviews and the process are ongoing, a definite timeline has yet to be confirmed.