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Our view: Superintendent search must find innovators

Herald editorial board

We agree with the findings of a local survey that outline the favored qualities of the next superintendent of Grand Forks Public Schools. We also say the survey's findings aren't too much of a surprise.

Monday, the new superintendent profile was released at a meeting of the Grand Forks School Board. The profile is based on numerous interviews between a company called School Exec Connect and members of the board, teachers, staff, administrators and the public.

The goal is to develop a profile for a new superintendent to replace Larry Nybladh, who is retiring in June.

The findings of the survey show the next superintendent must be visible in the schools and the community. Also, survey results show respondents believe the next superintendent must be a team builder with people skills, and one who values collaboration and professional development.

It's important to note that these answers do not necessarily reflect upon Nybladh, but are simply traits respondents say are important. Nybladh, we should note, was the 2014 North Dakota Superintendent of the Year.

The survey answers were predictable. Of course everybody wants a collaborative leader with people skills. Would anyone really prefer a superintendent who doesn't seek input and isn't a people person?

However, one trait that emerged — "visionary leader" — deserves focus.

Bob Ostlund, speaking on behalf of School Exec Connect, described it as "someone with proven experience who can put together the strategic plan ... and who can connect internally and externally, especially with the (state) Legislature."

All candidates will come with resumes that show various examples of collaboration and team-building. All will proclaim their communicative skills. Many will come armed with high educational degrees and academic accomplishment, although we don't necessarily believe that's a prerequisite for the position.

What's really needed is vision, and the finalists must have risen above the others based upon their specific vision for our particular district, backed by examples of their past success.

Specifically, how can a new superintendent's vision help Grand Forks consistently raise test scores? Or become a leader in STEM? Or improve computer and tech literacy?

For example, our sister publication—Prairie Business—reported in August about immersion programs in Sioux Falls, S.D., that specialize in programs like fine-arts or technology.

And in Moorhead, Minn., a Spanish immersion program for grades K-6 is teaching the language to students throughout all subject areas. According to the Moorhead School District website, many schools are reporting improved standardized test scores and improved English language skills among Spanish immersion students.

Are they perfect fit for Grand Forks? Maybe, maybe not. But it's the kind of innovative thinking we like.

Certainly, the next superintendent must be a collaborator with people skills. Also, the next superintendent must have the proven ability to draft budgets and capably represent the district at the Capitol.

Most of all the district needs an innovator and perhaps even a dreamer, but one with a solid plan to take the district into the future.