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Community provides input at superintendent search forum

By Staff | Jan 20, 2011

One of six community forums, this one conducted by the Lee County School Board Vice Chairman Mary Fischer, was held at Cape Coral High School Thursday night to provide community members with the opportunity to voice their input of what characteristics and qualifications a new superintendent should possess.
District employees, school based employees, parents, board members and others gathered at Cape Coral High School to either voice their opinions or fill out a 3×5 index card of what qualities they believe a superintendent should have.
Interim Superintendent Dr. Larry Tihen opened the forum by informing the 24 people in attendance that the sole purpose of the meeting was being held because the board members wanted to make sure the community had an opportunity to provide input. He went on to explain that the information gathered from Thursday’s forum will be shared with the rest of the board.
Before everyone had the opportunity to share their ideas, Fischer went over a few of the district’s statistics. She explained that the district has 117 schools, 81,929 students as of October 2010 and 12,000 full and part time employees. Lee County is the 9th largest district in Florida and the 40th largest in the United States with a $1.428 billion budget.
Fischer said that it is important to find out what the community is looking for in a superintendent before the board begins its search.
Cape Coral High School Principal Eric McFee was one of the participants who shared his opinion of what he hopes the school board will consider when hiring a new superintendent. He explained that Lee County is a unique district due to its size and accomplishments and it is important to bring someone on board that understands that.
“Someone has to be familiar with how it works here,” he said. “A person who comes in from out of state has to learn of everything that is going on in Florida,” which can be “a huge burden.”
McFee also shared that he hopes they look within the district when their search begins.
“There are so many people in the district that are all qualified,” he said.
Marvin Goetz, president of Lee County Association of Professional Substitute Teachers said he thinks every superintendent should be a humanist, a people person who runs a transparent system, who is willing to bend and be visible. He also said a superintendent should always have his door open and be available to employees and the community.
A superintendent should be a “born leader,” Goetz said, “someone who has been called to education.”
Another member of the crowd said the district desperately needs a hands-on superintendent who will be willing to implement a culture change if need be. A parent said she hopes the district will hire a superintendent who has a lot of knowledge of bringing more money into the district through grants, so more technology can brought forth in the classrooms.
“As we do our search we have to keep our minds and doors open,” Fischer said. “We have to entertain anybody that comes to us with qualifications that are statutory and show a big interest.”
Dr. Greg Adkins, who kept track of the two minutes that individuals were allotted to speak, said the forum went well. He said those who came shared a lot of good input and comments of what they want in a superintendent.

Tihen concluded the meeting by sharing that he is “confident we are going to find a really good person to work with” for the superintendent position. As the interim superintendent he said community involvement is the number who thing that he has learned about.

“We have tremendous support from the community,” Tihen said. “That community is powerful and supportive.”

He said the new superintendent should be someone who wants to be a part of the community because it is “not a one person job.”

Fischer also held a forum Wednesday night during the District Advisory Council meeting. She said there were about 80 people who generated a lot of good ideas.

She expressed that she hopes individuals that were not able to make it to one of the forums will go onto the districts website, www.lee.k12.fl.us/superintendent, and send their comments of what qualifications and characteristics the next superintendent should have to anyone of the board members.

Board member Don Armstrong also attended the meeting Thursday night to show support for his fellow board member. On Tuesday, he held a forum at Mariner High School, which he said attracted 40 people that ranged from students to business people.

He said he received some great feedback from the crowd.

“The community seemed very involved,” he said, adding that “we have to hear what the public has to say.”

The information collected from each of the board members community forums will be shared during the next superintendent workshop, which is scheduled for Jan. 28.

The school board has tentatively set June 1 as the hire date for a new superintendent and July 1 as the date he/she should start to be a part of next year’s budget process.