Kearney stakeholder meeting defines characteristics sought in next superintendent

Jim Hinson of EdCounsel LLC is helping the Kearney school board interview and vet superintendent candidates. He also led a stakeholder meeting where patrons expressed what qualities they want in their next superintendent.

KEARNEY — Jim Hinson, a member of the school governance team with EdCounsel LLC, facilitated a stakeholder meeting Monday, Oct. 21, in the Kearney school board room. About 40 people including teachers, parents, elected city officials and spiritual leaders sat down to offer their thoughts about the characteristics they want to see in the next district superintendent.

Sitting Superintendent Bill Nicely recently announced his plans to retire at the end of the school year.

Hinson, who spent more than 35 years in public education, told the crowd that the interest in the Kearney district leadership role is “really high.”

“Kearney has a great reputation,” he said.

He told the gathering that most superintendents stick around for about 3.5 years on average, using the role as a stepping stone before moving on or merely getting burned out on education.

There are about 500 districts in the state, and last year there were 76 new superintendents. Next year, that number could hit 100, Hinson said.

“The plan is to screen applicants after the Nov. 4 deadline,” he said. “Currently, there are four openings in the immediate metro area.”

The stakeholders chimed in on a myriad of preferred characteristics for the district’s next top administrator: public relations skills, communication skills, innovative/creative mindset, knowledge of all aspects of the school district operations, integrity, collaborative spirit, passion and energy, leadership and visionary qualities.

Some of the key points under public relations are seeking input from a variety of stakeholders, handling adversity and transparency. Sought-after communication skills include excellent grammar, and understanding the right medium and audience for a message.

“I also want to see good listening skills,” said current board member Susan Woehrman.

Board President Mark Kelly said EdCounsel and Hinson will select four to eight candidates for interviews that will take place in mid-November.

“EdCounsel will help vet candidates, check credentials and examine their social media footprint,” he said. “We plan to introduce our choice at the Dec. 17 board meeting.”

Kelly said a superintendent who will live in Kearney is sought.

“We want to see them pay taxes in their community,” he said.

Board member Dan Holloway said Nicely’s successor should share some characteristics with the current superintendent.

“Dr. Nicely’s eyes light up when he talks about kids and teachers,” Holloway said. “It’s not about buildings or other projects. That is the sort of superintendent we still need — one who values kids, teachers and staff members.”

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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