Board assesses community survey

FRONT ROYAL — A new superintendent for Warren County Public Schools should be a good communicator and have people skills.

Those were two of the characteristics that a recent online survey revealed as important to community members in an administrator who will replace Pamela McInnis when she retires at the end of the 2014-15 school year.

The survey, which began Dec. 4 and ran for two weeks, asked participants to rate qualities that were important to them in a new superintendent as well as challenges the school district currently faces and positive attributes in schools.

“We are who we thought that we were,” board member Roy Boyles said survey results indicated to him.

“But you’re not there yet,” said David Martin, a principal with the firm Real Synergy, which the School Board hired to consult on the search. “There’s still more work to be done.”

Funding ranked highest on the list of challenges with 15 points, Martin pointed out. Teacher retention and Standards of Learning test pass rates also scored high on the survey of county challenges.

But the community ranked the dedication of county teachers as the school division’s best-ranked attribute, followed closely by Warren County’s small community atmosphere.

It’s not always a good thing to be a small community, Martin said.

“Everybody knows your business,” he said. However, “they saw that a more of a positive than a negative.”

Ranking as most important among survey takers was that the new superintendent know how to get staff, students, parents and community to work together to help children learn.

Data was collected from 194 survey takers, 103 of whom filled out the form within five days of the survey’s post date on the school district’s website.

That’s a typical response of surveys that Real Synergy has assessed, but what surprised Martin was that 13 survey takers don’t have children in the school system.

“I am a community resident, I don’t have kids in school, but I am participating in this survey,” he said.

By comparison, 25 survey takers identified as community residents with children in county schools, 21 said they have children in schools but are not residents of Warren County, and 15 live and work in the community and have children in schools.

Martin also asked board members to consider a draft of an application that will best reveal to them the attributes of applicants interested in the position and whether or not those attributes align with what the district desires in an applicant.

Information about the position will be forwarded to every candidate on the state’s list for superintendent — a list that Martin said could result in hundreds of applicants.

Traditional applicants would include current superintendents and assistant superintendents in Virginia’s 133 districts, but he also asked the board to consider non-traditional applicants.

“What would a non-traditional applicant look like?” he asked.

Picture a Hollywood producer-turned administrator of a prominent performing arts school. He or she doesn’t have a traditional background that the School Board might have considered, but is successful in his or her content area. And as a bonus, Martin added, earning laughs from the room, this applicant can pull A-list Hollywood stars to Front Royal to boost interest in school fundraisers.

In addition to personal information and employment history, the edited application will ask candidates to include accomplishments, credentials, membership in community or professional associations and activities and information for a background check.

Applications will be available for download at the website http://www.warren.k12.va.us and must be received at the Warren County Post Office with a postmark of Feb. 16 or earlier.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com