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Community members express qualities necessary for new superintendent

 

By JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

SOUTH BRUNSWICK – More than 1,200 students, parents, staff members and community members with an interest in the future of the South Brunswick School District participated in a survey related to the new superintendent search.

“This information shaped our advertisement as we entered the employment marketplace and, as well, will be utilized in the development of interview questions and scenarios,” interim Superintendent of Schools Gary P. McCartney said of the 1,277 respondents who shared their thoughts about the district. “We are thankful to all who have participated. Likewise, we will share more information as the process moves forward.”

The majority of participants – 768 or 60 percent – were parents of students who are currently enrolled in district schools, followed by staff members (270 or 21 percent), current students or recent graduates (163 or almost 13 percent) and community members without a student in school (76 or almost 6 percent).

The survey takers were asked how important initiatives were to them, including if the new superintendent should have a sense of vision of what public education in South Brunswick can become, if the superintendent’s plan should include measurable objectives for achieving the district’s mission, if the superintendent should seek the opinions of others while still being a strong and timely decision-maker and if the superintendent should be a strategic thinker who always sees the big picture. Overall, the questions were ranked between 60-80 percent in terms of being “very important.”

Among a list of leadership skills that could be selected, the three most popular qualities important for the new superintendent are having a background as an educator (56 percent), having communication skills (almost 52 percent), and possessing management skills (almost 40 percent), among other qualities such as having instructional, interpersonal, public relations, decision-making, strategic thinking, organizational and financial skills; and being culturally proficient.

Among a list of general qualities the public would like the new superintendent to possess, the three most important are integrity (55 percent), commitment to community (43 percent) and being approachable (36 percent), followed by having good judgement, being a team builder and a visionary, being accountable, expressing enthusiasm and innovation, and acting as a peacemaker, negotiator, change agent and risk taker.

In terms of three issues facing the school district itself in the next five years, the community at large is focused on educational options and programs (almost 50 percent), curriculum (47 percent) and funding (41 percent). Community relations, growth, facilities, technology, instruction and personnel fell not too far behind.

As for the time being, the three most significant strengths of the current school district were listed as excellent teachers and staff (almost 68 percent), high academic standards (51 percent) and the reputation of the district (almost 41 percent), followed closely by the district’s supportive community (almost 36 percent). The remaining choices included available resources, facilities, supportive parents, financial management, technology, effective leadership and curriculum.

Receiving relatively comparable results, the final question of the survey asked participants to rank the importance of certain items from very important to not important at all. The items included the superintendent having experience with a proven record of success, as an assistant superintendent, as a district-level administrator, as a principal and as a classroom teacher; having experience with finance, personnel and instruction; having a proven track record in improving student performance, facility construction and management; having experience in strategic planning, in labor relations, in community relations, with technology, in a multi-cultural environment and in working with elected officials; and understanding federal, state and local laws and funding.

The most important items are having a proven record of success (almost 52 percent), improving student performance (55 percent), having experience in a multi-cultural environment (50 percent), having experience in strategic planning (almost 54 percent), understanding funding laws (56 percent) and experience in community relations (53 percent).

The new superintendent search was necessary because former Superintendent Jerry Jellig officially resigned at a school board meeting on May 23, 2016. The South Brunswick Education Association had lodged grievances against Jellig since November 2014 – just five months after he joined the district – including intimidation in the work place, loss of contractual time, questionable hiring practices and inappropriate administrative conduct, according to association President John Lolli.

Although Director of Human Resources Richard Chromey had been voted interim superintendent on May 9, the same night Jellig was put on leave of absence, the school board unanimously approved the appointment of McCartney on May 23 as interim superintendent for the period May 24, 2016, through May 23, 2017. McCartney served as South Brunswick’s superintendent from 2004-14.

There were 37 applications received after the survey results were used to create the advertisement for the position, according to McCartney. Nine applicants went through first-round interviews. The board is hopeful to have a new superintendent begin by July 1.

To view the survey in its entirety, visit www.sbschools.org/

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@gmnews.com.

 

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