One of the most beautiful and simple ideas that came out of this meeting was from our 3rd grade teacher, Cassandra Lane, who described Smith as a place that is always smiling. I believe she is right. I believe Smith spreads a smile across the faces of our children and the teachers who dedicate their time to fostering a love of learning in all of our hearts.
Please take a moment to review the minutes from our meeting with Rick Ledwith on Thursday, May 14, 2015. As Mr. Melian gets ready to say goodbye, we must get ready to welcome a new leader. There were many helpful questions and answers provided during this meeting. See below.
As a reminder, the Leadership Profile Survey is available online until May 22nd. Please take a few minutes to fill it out. FOLLOW THIS LINK!
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Community Meeting Agenda
Community gardening day is this Saturday from 9-12. Bring gloves, shovel, etc.
Looking to get more people from our school involved in Growing Great Schools. GGS has helped with the garden, tastings at salad bar, and farmer’s market at Smith. Please contact Susan if you are interested in getting involved.
Discussion with Rick Ledwith regarding hiring process and characteristics the teachers and families find important.
Process of search for new principal has started. Position posted & will close May 22; developing leadership profile with community and teachers to incorporate what is important to teachers and families. Sent Survey Monkey survey to gather further information. Survey is available for another week. Please complete survey and encourage others to do the same. Administration will try to set up computers at Smith for families who do not have access at home.
Interview committee will be given above information so they know what to look for in new principal. So far, it appears that the Smith families who have shared information are on the same page.
40 applicants at this point – expect around 50. Will use profile and family/teacher input to match candidates and narrow the pool. Had 12 finalists for position at Aiken.
Committee will consist of 10 members: 3 parents, 6 teachers and a principal from another school. This is a completely open process. There is no “secret candidate.” Admin also recruiting candidates they feel will fit profile, but committee will determine final candidates. Expect a small pool of strong candidates based on the needs of the Smith community. Looking for someone who can connect with every person who walks through the doors of our school. Performance tasks, background checks will be done prior to interviews. Site visit at candidates’ current schools may occur as pool narrows. This could present a challenge due to the approach of the end of the school year. If not possible, could opt for dialogue between community and candidate (~12 families). Must be sure the community approves of the candidate, and that the candidate WANTS to take on this challenge.
Hope to have candidate back to meet with community at large prior to June 16. If the right match isn’t found right away, committee will back off and continue to seek the right person for the job. Smith has seen a lot of principals, and it is important to find someone who will stay 5-6 years and continue to move our school forward, building on what Juan started. Could have interim principal if necessary while the right person is found.
- What happens if the right principal is not identified right away? Response: Interim principal – someone known to administration.
- Daughter’s 3rd principal in 3 years. Former school did not hire a good match. Encouraged by tonight’s information, but what did administration learn from that process? Response: Familiar with situation. If they don’t get it right, they fix it. That’s why they’re getting the teachers and community more involved for Smith. This is a more challenging school than some others in town, and the bar has been set very high. One consistency at Smith has always been great teachers, and that won’t change.
- Will Juan be a part of the hiring committee? Response: No. He is available to provide input, but will not be a committee member. # of teachers on committee increased to six.
- Does the committee make the final decision? Does any one member have more “power” than others? Response: Hoping for consensus. A lot of discussion will occur among committee members. Confident that since committee members will likely be looking for similar characteristics, it won’t be hard for them to agree. Rick will not completely override committee.
- Great teachers at Smith; concerned that our teachers will be recruited to Charter Oak. Response: Ground breaking at Charter Oak was today. 280 kids there now; goal is 500 over next couple of years. Teachers will be brought from other schools in district, but not from Smith. Wait list for Smith much larger than CO, and Smith is very successful – don’t want to damage that.
- How do you interview someone when you’re looking for intangible qualities? Response: Reference checks – 3 levels: Candidate will provide names, and administration will talk with them and then ask those people for more names, and ask those people for even more names. Community forum also will help identify those traits.
- Thank you for having this opportunity for parents. Encouraged by what is being said. Has process changed over the years? Don’t remember so many surveys and chances for community involvement. Response: Yes – and Smith is unique, so this is even more significant.
- How does this timeline compare to typical searches? Response: Trying to have kids meet new principal before end of school year. This will be challenging for candidate, too, to meet so much while trying to run current district/school.
- How did teachers respond? Response: Ruth Luipold – Staff is extremely resilient. First and foremost, kids are most important, and teachers come in every day and take care of them. We’ve been through this before, and we’ll do it again.
- What is general sentiment of staff? Type of leader you’re looking for (teachers)? Response: Ms. Lane – Juan gave her first classroom, so she has a sense of loyalty. She has always had sense that the whole school is smiling. Juan truly has growth mindset. He is constantly in classroom, both evaluating teachers and just being there. Gender doesn’t matter, but fact that he speaks Spanish is helpful as well. Sharon Zajack: Relationships over procedure. Education is really about relationships. Re: STEM, would be good to have someone who has STEM knowledge because it is incorporated into everything at Smith. Don’t need to be expert, but knowledge is important. Candidate should be open to learning. Teachers are trying new things all the time, taking risks (with right intentions), and candidate should be open for that. Ruth Luipold: Our population is so diverse – important to have that background. Also, having elementary experience is a plus. Juan helps families who have many different experience levels regarding education setting.
- We don’t want our teachers/staff to leave. Whether a staff member leaves, for whatever reason, if more than one person leaves, our community could be rocked. What can we do to retain them? Response: We can’t stop anyone who wants to move on. But one of the great things about Smith is the consistency of teachers. Stories from teachers were moving. They care about the kids, and Rick is hopeful they’ll all stay. Ruth: Cannot remember any staff member who left because they were unhappy – they were all for other reasons. Parent: It would be important to communicate reasons to community if another teacher/staff member leaves this year.
- Are kids having input? Response: Not at this point, but that could be considered. Perhaps student council? Will try to set up meeting with Rick and some student leaders.
Juan has ability to make every student, family and (hopefully) teacher feel important. We don’t want a principal who will hide in the office.
- Approach with discipline. Impressed with how a specific incident was handled. Juan explained why he took steps he needed to take. Then called back next day because he felt something was missing. Investigated further and admitted they got it wrong the first time, apologized. Gave children a voice and handled situation fairly, followed through to end. Had instinct & motivation to look further.
- Since we don’t have an assistant principal, the principal will have to be prepared to take on that role as well. Response: That is a WH standard – there are no AP’s in our elementary schools. It is expected that person will be relations-oriented and handle that with no problem.
- Social media – Juan has embraced social media (Twitter), but not every principal feels that way. Our community loves it. It is a way for parents to see first-hand what our children are doing and ask specific questions about their day.
- Should we be cautious with next principal because they will likely move up/on in 4-5 years? Response: No. Should embrace the person and develop strong relationship. It can be mentioned to candidate that the community really wants a leader to stay longer. Obviously, can’t make them stay.
- Is it typical for principal to attend extra-curricular activities, etc.? Response: It is wanted everywhere, but not always the case.
Interview questions designed based on feedback from teachers and families.
Working on Survey Monkey survey for 3rd, 4th & 5th graders to provide feedback.
The district is committed to Smith and ensuring the right person is hired. Smith is a unique and special place, and the district truly realizes it. Will do a lot of upfront education with candidates before they even get to the committee. We don’t want someone who can’t embrace the Smith community and build on it. Need someone who can quickly adapt to where Smith is and begin moving our school forward.
Ms. Lane: Smith has a unique identity, and we will help that person assimilate.
Rick: Happy to meet again with other parents who couldn’t attend, etc. Feel free to email or call with further input.
*****$1600.00 raised for Nickels for Nepal!!!!!!*****