Survey: Residents hope for superintendent with teaching experience

Published 10:24 pm Friday, October 3, 2008

FRANKLIN—By overwhelming percentages, people in Franklin who responded to a recent survey want their new school superintendent to be a well-educated person with experience at both ends of the education spectrum and a desire to live in the city.

During a special meeting on Thursday, School Board members discussed the results of a survey sent to Franklin residents in order to gauge public opinion about the qualifications that should be sought in a new leader for the city’s school system.

The School Board received 266 responses from the 3,450 surveys that were mailed to Franklin homes. Copies also were left at local churches, businesses and other locations, and a copy was sent home with each student. The survey also was published in The Tidewater News.

School Board member Verta Jackson tallied the survey responses, and Chairman Bill Scarboro presented spreadsheet compilations Thursday evening, describing the unsurprising answers to many of the questions.

“Everybody’s looking for the same thing in a superintendent,” Scarboro said. “You want him to walk on water. You want him to be a master of all.”

Indeed, the vast majority of those responding to the survey want their new school superintendent to know just as well what it’s like to be a teacher as a school administrator.

Nearly 75 percent of respondents would prefer or require teaching experience from a candidate for the job, while more than 81 percent would prefer or require a candidate to have served as superintendent of another school system before coming to Franklin.

The candidate’s own education also ranked high among those responding to the survey, with more than 82 percent saying that a doctoral degree should be preferred or required.

Survey results also showed that people want the new leader to be connected to the community. Nearly 79 percent ranked residing within the city as either a preference or a requirement.

“This is not a great shock to me,” board member David Benton commented.

Those completing the surveys also were asked to rank various skills sets and characteristics in order of their perceived importance to a new superintendent.

The three most desirable leadership and management skills listed were creative thinking, organization and motivational abilities. Candidates should be enthusiastic, consistent and accessible. Residents want a superintendent who can lead the board in goal-setting and planning, who is willing to assume a lead role in decision-making and who “understands differences between policy and administration and acts accordingly,” according to survey results.

They have asked for a leader who maintains open channels of communication to and from staff, who sets a good example for staff members and who creates an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.

In the community, the new superintendent should be an effective advocate of the school system’s needs, should be able to communicate well in public and in private and should promote business and community involvement in the system, respondents said.

Leading his priorities, they said, should be curriculum and instruction, budget and finance and school reform.

Nearly 46 percent of those responding to the survey identified themselves as parents. Another 12.5 percent were teachers or other school employees.