Search firm gathers community, teacher and administrator input on what they want in a new Hays CISD superintendent
As the pursuit for a new superintendent for Hays CISD continues, Proact, an executive search firm, now has input on what the community, teachers and administrators want in their new school leader.
The search process included a survey, focus groups, open input sessions and one-on-one interviews with a combination of Hays CISD staff, parents, business leaders and community members, as well as board members, to gain insight into what type of candidates would make the best superintendent.
Proact’s goal was to get feedback on three primary questions:
1. What are the strengths of Hays Consolidated Independent School District?
2. What are the challenges facing Hays CISD in the next three to five years?
3. What are the most important characteristics you would like to see in the next superintendent?
More than 920 responses to one of the research methods yielded insight into the kind of candidates Proact should bring to the Board of Trustees.
Strengths of Hays CISD included very involved parents, a close knit community and dual language programs for a growing population of immigrants within the district.
Other strengths included good communication between teachers and parents, a variety of academic, athletic and extracurricular activities, and strong ties to the business community.
The challenges included growing pains from the district’s fast expansion, diversity of families/students in both culture and income, over-reliance on standardized testing and inconsistency in responses to problems.
Overall, the survey feedback from 809 respondents indicates the district’s new leader should, in this order, put students first, be willing to listen to input but able to make a decision and be a person of strong moral character and absolute integrity.
Other desirable characteristics included being a humble leader who inspires trust and treats others with respect, having effective communication skills and offering a visible presence in schools.
The candidate who earns the job should also have experience in elementary, middle, and high school, be willing to make a long-term commitment to the district, hire the right people to get the job done and work effectively with parents.
Teachers and support staff were most likely to respond that the most important characteristic of the new superintendent is being willing to listen to input but able to make a decision. Parents and administrators felt the top trait was to put students first.
Principals want a superintendent who has a visible presence in the schools and who works with school leadership. They also want someone who takes leadership in instructional issues.
Parents, teachers, support staff and community members who responded to the survey had a person’s willingness to make a long-term commitment to the district in their top 10 lists.
Based on verbatim responses at the end of the survey, commenters hinted that the previous superintendent, Jeremy Lyon, may not have possessed some of these traits during his three-year run at Hays CISD.
Lyon left in January to begin his new post as the superintendent of the Frisco ISD near Dallas. His predecessor spent 17 years in that spot.
In contrast, Hays CISD, which serves more than 16,000 students on 22 campuses, has had five superintendents since 1999.
During the focus groups with community members, business leaders, teachers and community leaders, participants also expressed frustration at the district’s inability to retain its leader for more than a few years at a clip.
Comments also indicated hiring someone who is not just looking for the highest paycheck. Lyon’s initial contract with the district was for a starting salary of $179,000, plus benefits, a travel allowance and other perks. Lyon’s wife, Ellen Lyon, was also hired as an administrator. She headed up the STEM program, a science, technology, engineering and math magnet school within the district.
Proact is working to have potential candidates screened and ready for interviews during April. The board accepted the firm’s time line to name the lone finalist for the position on or around May 1.