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Community forums create profile of ideal Indian River School superintendent


The next superintendent of the Indian River County School District needs to be able to unite the community, be a champion for civil rights and create a climate of trust in the district.

Those are the top qualities cited by educators, administrators, students, parents and community leaders who participated in forums this past week organized by the firm that is conducting the search for a new superintendent.

"The School Board will use the citizen input to create a profile for the kind of superintendent the district is looking for," said Monica Browne of Hazard, Young, Attea Associates.

The board is scheduled to review and discuss citizen comments during a special board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 24, Browne said.  Once the board agrees on what they think are the top attributes a new superintendent must have, Hazard, Young, Attea Associates will launch a national advertising effort and begin actively recruiting candidates.

The School Board’s goal is to hire a new superintendent by January.

A total of 14 forums were held during the week of Sept. 9 for a range of groups, including principals, teachers, students, principals from local charter schools, and the community-at-large, said Christen Maddox, the district’s public information officer.

“The responses were very similar,” Browne said. “The traits most frequently mentioned were a superintendent who is committed to the district, and can improve the climate and culture in the district.

“Improving student achievement and instruction were also important, as was diversity. Everyone also wanted an experienced superintendent who can build a vision for the district and knows how to get their staff and community energized behind it.”

For the small group of people who attended Friday morning’s forum, the priority was finding a superintendent who understands the needs of African-American students, who continue to lag far behind other students in achievement, retention and graduation rates.

Longtime resident Anthony Stewart said he would like to see the district recruit quality African-American candidates for the superintendent’s job.

Merchon Green, chairman of the district’s Equity Committee, said hiring a superintendent who understands academic challenges facing African-American students must be a priority.

The Equity Committee was formed as part of a 2018 court-ordered mandate requiring the district to comply with a 1967 Federal Desegregation order that had been largely ignored by the district for years. The committee is charged with overseeing the district’s efforts to improve the quality of education for black students and improve efforts to recruit and hire more black teachers.

Green said the previous administration under former Superintendent Mark Rendell was not very cooperative and often tried to undermine the committee’s efforts.

“I think the desegregation order is the biggest blemish on our school district,” Green said.