By MADDY VITALE
The Ocean City School District is getting closer to defining the most important strengths and characteristics in a person to make them a viable candidate to become the next Superintendent of Schools.
It is a process involving parents, students, educators, teachers, community stakeholders and others.
At a meeting of the Board of Education on Wednesday evening, the public heard the status of the superintendent’s research.
Six school board members sit on a superintendent search committee. Additionally, the board hired Strategic Educational Advantage, or SEA, in the spring after receiving notification of the retirement of former superintendent of schools, Dr. Kathleen Taylor. Dr. Tom Baruffi is the acting superintendent.
On Wednesday evening, SEA representatives Frank Auriemma and Michael Kuchar presented some of the findings and explained how they prepare an ad to air once it’s polished and approved by the board.
“As many of you know, since Dr. Taylor left, we are fortunate to have Dr. Baruffi. The council has worked hard and has a search committee,” said education council chair Dr. Patrick Kane. He noted that SEA assists the board.
To help determine which qualities are most important to stakeholders, SEA has held meetings with several different groups of parents, teachers, students, union representatives and community members over the past few months. In addition, surveys were made available to anyone wishing to contribute.
“We did our focus groups. We (have had) interviews and various stakeholder groups and are now presenting our findings and summary to formalize the profile,” Auriemma explained during a presentation to the board.
The goal, SEA officials said, is to compile a profile to be written in a posting job ad that is as tight and specific to what the district is most looking for in a superintendent.
The survey gave top priority to any quality that received an overall rating of 90% or higher.
Among the important attributes people were looking for when responding to the 768 survey responses were:
A person who listens to the concerns of students, parents and staff is at the top of the priority list. Having expertise and knowledge of the curriculum and teaching, believing that every student can excel, setting priorities, and being able to support a positive school climate were also high on the list. Encouraging the growth and success of each student and communicating with parents, students and the community were also major qualities.
“We find communication to be an important part,” Auriemma noted, adding that the surveys provide miniature insight.
Kuchar presented to the board and the public the results of forums and interviews conducted by SEA.
“We take many themes after thousands of stakeholder feedback,” he said. “It all started with the focus group and all the stakeholders, the board, faculty and staff, the Ocean City Education Association and the school administration.”
Some of the district’s strengths include what people have called a sense of family between the community and the schools and close cooperation between the city and the school district, public library, recreation, police and fire departments.
The schools’ wellness centers also received praise from stakeholders as well as the district’s activities, clubs, sports and more for students.
Among the challenges facing the district are declining elementary school enrollment and escalating real estate costs in Ocean City.
All groups want more open and transparent communication.
Board of Education member Jacqueline McAlister commended SEA representatives for their work.
“These two gentlemen are superstars in the world of education, so thank you. I’m glad we’ve restarted the process,” she said of the search, adding that people had expressed interest in the position and emailed her.
Then she asked why so much work was put into the announcement.
“Don’t most of them look alike?” she asked. “Does the announcement limit applications?”
“I’m biased because I see how much difference a well-written profile makes,” Kuchar replied, adding that there will be a very tight profile to base the ad on.