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December 8, 2019

11/16/2019 7:30:00 AM
Firm gathers public, staff input as superintendent search ramps up

Jamie Taylor
River News Reporter

The firm leading the search for the School District of Rhinelander's next superintendent has been gathering input from the school board, teachers and the general public through phone calls and online surveys. On Tuesday a representative of the firm met with two groups to gather additional information.

The goal of the surveys and the in-person group sessions was to identify the skill-set candidates for the position will need to have in order to help the district meet its goals.

Big River Group, LLC, the company the school board hired to run the search, will use the data to narrow the field of candidates to those who best match the desired traits.

According to Mike Beighley, a planner and trainer for the company, the online surveys produced 95 responses from district staff and employees and 72 from members of the community. At Tuesday's gathering, staff and employees participated in three different activities to help Beighley and Bruce Miles identify what they see as the district's recent successes and concerns.

The discussion also offered valuable insight into the district's vision and priorities.

Twenty-three staff members attended the early session while just three members of the community took part in the second session.

"What we did with the staff is we went through each of the three activities," Beighley explained. "We looked at intended positives and things that were intentional in terms of decisions but didn't work out so good and then we looked at some unintended successes, collected information we could share with the board on that, as well as some things that weren't positive where nothing could be done, where things just blew up. (These were) things nobody could have prevented, nobody could have seen coming, just to identify them."

He said the next exercise led the groups to identify items that the district administration could develop, deliver and be recognized or known for and want to achieve in five years, along with the near-term priorities to achieve those goals.

He said the staff members were able to speak freely because there were no board members or senior administrators present.

"Then I just relay the information back to the board," Beighley said.

Beighley said the staff was "very well engaged" during their session, and the staff numbers in the online survey were "great."

"I didn't see anything to give me cause to say it is abnormal," he said of the survey results. "There's standard superintendent responsibilities, the standard expectations of a school superintendent. We didn't see any outliers or anything inappropriate on it."

While low, the community response was about what would be expected because that is always a "struggle," he added.

"I will tell you from my own experience that the community will engage when they're not happy," Beighley said. "If things were not going well, the room would be full."

He said the construction of the Hodag Sports Complex and other improvements coming to the district in the near future were seen as a positive by the staff, according to comments made during the staff session.

"That was evident of a true desire to want to continue to get better," Beighley said.

Beighley also noted that outgoing superintendent Kelli Jacobi gave early notice of her retirement plans, which means the board has had plenty of time to formalize the search procedure.

"I think your timing is very good, as well, in terms of you're early in the process, early in the year for people who are looking to move," Beighley said, adding that Miles, who developed the search process in consultation with the board, was comfortable with the timeline.

"You're not out in February trying to start this process when the best candidates have already moved that are willing to move," he said.

Beighley said he took note of the community while traveling to attend the sessions and determined it would be appealing to many candidates.

"It is an attractive place," he said. "This area has a lot to offer."

The hiring process now shifts to collecting resumes until Dec. 5, at which time those submitted will be weighed against the criteria from the online surveys and group meetings. Questions will be emailed to those candidates whom the board is interested in learning more about, and the responses will be reviewed by the board after Dec. 27.

The references of candidates who the board has selected for interviews will be checked prior to the first round interviews, which are slated for Jan. 21. There will be a session where the community and employees will have an opportunity to interact with the candidates prior to a session with the school board, which will be open to the public.

A final round of interviews, to be conducted on Jan. 28, will also be open to the public.

Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at jamie@rivernews

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