Outside of handling the newly created Common Core Standards, not an awful lot has changed in the eyes of the community concerning what it wants in a superintendent of schools, according to an online survey conducted by the Board of Education.
Indeed, the survey results, released by the school board Tuesday, show that the respondents - 784 parents, teachers, staff members, students, and others - are looking for an inspirational leader who has a strong, well-defined vision for West Hartford public schools who also communicates well in public meetings.
Those responses are similar - if not identical - to a 2008 survey conducted by the school board the last time it conducted a search for a new superintendent.
The current superintendent, Dr. Karen List, announced at the end of the 2012-13 school year that she would retire in June 2014.
The recent survey revealed that, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most important, that the superintendent should, above everything else, inspire students, faculty and parents (4.79). That answer was the top choice in 2008 (4.74).
Survey respondents also said that the superintendent should have a “strong, well-defined vision for West Hartford public schools,” scoring that item 4.73 out of 5. That, too, placed second in 2008 with an average score of 4.72.
“Communicates well in public meetings” place third on the priority list with an average score of 4.71 out of 5. In 2008, that score was 4.61.
Other important attributes include “works effectively with town government” (4.54); “demands accountability” (4.47); “effectively delegates authority” (4.41); promotes a culture of innovation (4.46); and “communicates regularly with parents through newsletters and the website” (4.23).
Of less import to respondents was having the superintendent live in town (3.11 out of 5).
In another category - traits that the superintendent should have - respondents also answered similarly as the 2008 survey.
More than anything, the new superintendent must be responsive (77 percent), a good listener (60 percent), sincere (58 percent) and accessible (57 percent). In 2008, respondents answered that responsiveness (80 percent), accessibility (63 percent), creativity (58 percent) and decisiveness (57 percent) as the top traits.
The biggest difference between the 2008 and 2013 studies is that respondents view adapting the curriculum to match newly created Common Core State Standards as the most important issue facing the new superintendent (2.37 out of 3, with 1 being valuable and 3 being urgent). The Common Core did not exist in 2008.
Other responses to pressing issues included closing the achievement gap (2.28), improving school facilities (2.27) and reducing class sizes (2.25).
School facilities jumped 16 percent over the 2008 survey (1.96), while reducing class sizes fell 9 percent (2.48 in 2008). Also, respondents said that “identifying opportunities for greater spending efficiency” was less important in 2013 (2.22) than it was in 2008 (2.55).
“[The responses are] the benchmark we are what we are thinking about with our next superintendent,” school board Chairman Bruce Putterman said.
Putterman added that the school board had identified a “strong internal” candidate who has been interviewed once.
A second interview will be conducted using the profile as a benchmark, Putterman said.
“If we are comfortable, we will make an appointment as our next superintendent,” Putterman said.
If the school board is not comfortable, the school district will open up a broader search.Putterman said that an announcement either way would be made no later than Nov. 6.