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Search Firm Reports to School Board

Consultants report community's recommendations on the next superintendent of Plainview’s schools.

In many ways, when retires at the end of the school year, Plainview’s Board of Education will need a new leader like him.

That was the overall assessment of the search firm that’s been hired to help the district replace the veteran educator.  

On Monday night, the heard from representatives of an executive search firm which specializes in finding academic administrators. 

Their assessment was based on more than 200 responses to a meetings with teachers and the board of education, and assessing what local people feel are the necessary qualities of a new superintendent.

Florie Wachtenheim and John O'Rourke, consultants with the firm, provided a detailed report to the school board Monday night on what they learned. Three basic themes evolved from their review:

Strengths: Plainview's community "is actively engaged in the district. It's as if this community has a mantra, a deep concern and investment of the children in the community," O'Rourke said. The community is very involved in the education of its children and is generally supportive of district policies related to fiscal matters and curriculum, the consultants said.

Challenges: The community wants a new leader who ensures open communication and transparency. "Communication must be two-way and reaches every level and strata of the school district," O'Rourke said. In many ways, Dempsey personifies those traits, the consultants said.

But because Plainview is so focused on and a "pervasive child-centered culture," it is "only natural that there are different opinions..." O'Rourke said. The consultants mentioned contentious issues with the council of teachers and some members of the community. Some in the community feel not enough emphasis is being placed on education in the lower grades and middle schools.

The next superintendent should work hard to bring those people into the fold and address their concerns, the consultants said.

Implications: Plainview needs to hire a good manager not only of the district but its staff and its community at large. He or she should "be encouraging all voices to be allies and partners," said Wachtenheim. "The new leader must have the stability and maturity and a good sense of integrity all the way around."

Board members discussed the next step in the process, which is advertising for candidates. They discussed the pros and cons of soliciting applicants through national publications like the New York Times or through trade publications and professional networks. They debating some of the wording and discussed the costs involved.

Following the meeting, Trustee said she was pleased with the report: "I think our consultants did a very informative job tonight," she said.

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