Board OKs list of traits it seeks in schools head

The Lebanon School Board has approved a list of characteristics it is seeking in a new superintendent.

The board met with Hank Harris and Erin Prince of Human Capital Enterprises/Hazard Young Attea Jan. 31 during a work session to finalize the list based on input from the district and community.

The one-page document is available on the front page of the district’s website, lebanon.k12.or.us.

Among the characteristics, the board is seeking a person of ethics, representing the highest levels of integrity, speaking honestly and transparently with authenticity.

The document continues with a wide range of characteristics, including:

  • Being fair and equitable, disparaging of favoritism and nepotism;
  • Building relationships and connections; Respectfulness and thoughtfulness;
  • Moral decision making; being a visionary and insightful;
  • Holding him or herself and others accountable;
  • Being an exceedingly capable communicator who provides staff and family clarity about district decisions;
  • Holding a strong track record of success in school and a central office, and
  • Being an equity-minded leader, a collaborator and innovator.

Harris presented an “analysis, the state of things right now in Lebanon,” identifying the district’s strengths and issues facing the district, noting that these are not facts but perceptions gathered througth focus groups and an online survey.

Approximately 354 people participated. Of those, 118 were part of focus groups, while some 236 participated in the online survey. Harris said that some of those who participated in the focus groups may have participated in the online survey.

“The city is growing and changing, and with that brings social, cultural, economic expansion,” Prince said.

“It was referred to as the crown jewel of Oregon a couple of times in some of our conversations. There’s an excitement around this economic growth and a change and a shift that’s very exciting. With that came a theme of a friendly, caring community.”

Prince said they heard over again about how welcoming and connected the community is, she said. The district is loving and caring. Parents volunteer many hours, and numerous programs were popular, especially AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination.”

They heard that the board was moving in a remarkably positive direction, Prince said. “There’s an energy around this new board. The collective group moving forward in a very promising direction. There was hope and promise and excitement around the School Board.”

The top three issues Harris and Prince heard about centered on organizational culture.

“Internal and external stakeholders (pleaded) with us to find leadership that could heal longstanding issues around trust, fear, perceived fairness accountability and morale,” the report said.

“What I think sort of the flip side of those things, people are hungry for stable leadership, and I think we are committed to bringing somebody tremendous, several people, tremendous to you for you to choose one of,” Harris said.

“With the right match, a lot of these cultural pieces can actually dissipate in not a whole lot of time.”

First among those three issues were a perception that decisions are made by whim, based on personal relationships or even self-serving reasons.

The report said that morale appears low among many of the educators who met with Harris and Prince.

Their concerns range from low wages compared to the region to a believe that they are not supported by administrators and embarrassment over recent scandals encompassing the executive office.

Third, “employees and families articulate a high level of distrust of district leadership,” the report said. “Employees, particularly classified staff, talk about a fear of retaliation.”

The report identified additional challenges, including poverty, facilities in poor condition, parents sending their children to other schools, a history of gossip and perceived scandals, the configuration of grade levels in schools, a need for a common vision and communication.

From the report, Harris listed the characteristics the board is seeking in a superintendent.

The document will be used to recruit candidates, Harris said. When an applicant asks what Lebanon is looking for, he can send them the document.

“When it comes to your end, you’re going to use this document as well to identify who brings which strengths to you,” Harris told the board.

The board may like a charming candidate, but when it comes down to it, the board will need to look at where the candidate fits compared to the list of characteristics.

“It tied into the findings, which I appreciate,” said Richard Borden, board member. It was very nicely done and very intuitive. It captures what we’re looking for.”

Following a board discussion, initiated by Tammy Schilling about parent involvement when she noted that just 103 parents participated in the survey, Harris incorporated additional concepts into his draft list of characteristics, including collaboration, parent participation, passion, motivation and accountability.

Present at the meeting were Borden, Schilling, Chairman Tom Oliver and Nick Brooks. Mike Martin was absent.

During the board’s regular meeting on Feb. 14, with all board members present, it hired Tami Volz as school improvement administrator, Carol McMahon as a temporary math and electives teacher, Greg Nicosia as a special education teacher and Ryan Christner as interim principal for Cascades School.

The board approved a leave of absence from March to June for teacher Sage Randklev.