2006-06-29 / Front Page

Search for Superintendent Down to Four

Candidates for Island School Superintendent Job Express Their Interest in Position
By Leslie Rott

The Mackinac Island Board of Education interviewed four candidates for superintendent Monday, June 19, and Tuesday, June 20, to replace Jack Dehring, who is retiring July 1. Beth Robb, Kent Bowden, Cynthia Leaman, and Roger Schrock answered questions from the board that focused on business and fiscal issues, students, public relations and community development, personnel and administration, relations between the board and the superintendent, and evaluation and assessment.

The board will meet again Tuesday, June 27, at 7 p.m. to make recommendations and will most likely narrow the candidate pool to two people at that time. The board has yet to decide whether members will conduct follow-up interviews and home visits with the finalists.

Beth Robb, who is originally from Zilwaukee, said she is looking for a place in which to settle, as she hopes to retire in 15 years. She expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of being involved in community activities.

"It's so much easier when you get to know the community," she said.

"The end product of 13 years of school," she noted, "is a wellrounded individual."

Mrs. Robb suggested that in hard economic times, a pay-to-participate program could be started for extracurricular activities.

As for being a role model, Mrs. Robb said that she lets students know she was only an average student.

"It's okay to change your mind. Just make sure you have a good foundation to start with," she said.

She prides herself in being fair and consistent, and is involved in the Lion's Club, church, and Rotary. She attends all home games and at least half of all away games at her current school. She said it is important to gain support by being visible and asking questions. The role of the board, she said, is to "manage me in managing the district."

"You raise the bar and students will hit it... We have to hit all levels. We can't just focus on the 4.0 student," Mrs. Robb said of her teaching philosophy, emphasizing that the question that must always be kept in mind is what is best for children.

Kent Bowden, originally from Bath, told the board, "I'm not here to get, I'm here to give." Mackinac, he noted, "feels like coming home," since he was graduated with a class of four other people.

Mr. Bowden has played in a band, was an associate pastor, and reared six orphaned children and two of his own children.

"You are going to have me 24/7 if I come here," he told the board.

"You have the ability to make some of the most creative people in the universe here," Mr. Bowden said. "Develop an interest in everything and a skill in the thing you do best."

Mr. Bowden's community activities include being a member of Rotary, Lions Club, and church.

As far as professional development, Mr. Bowden said that the teachers' needs must be met to meet the needs of students, and development should be addressed on a regular basis.

"Excellence matters a lot to me," he said.

Cynthia Leaman was the final candidate to be interviewed Monday night. Mrs. Leaman described herself as being optimistic, organized, visionary, forward thinking, current, and community and familyoriented.

"Size is not a barrier to meet standards," she said, referring to the role of standardized testing.

As a female professional, Mrs. Leaman hopes that she can be a role model to young women.

Mrs. Leaman is involved in church, Rotary, and serves on a scholarship committee. She enjoys running and has home-schooled her four children.

Mrs. Leaman described having two different leadership styles. She said she is collaborative with new teachers and tries to be a role model, and with established teachers, she tries to empower them with her positive attitude.

Roger Schrock was interviewed Tuesday, June 20. Mr. Schrock has experience in the Army and as the State Director of Community Education in Virginia. Growing up on a farm in southern Michigan, Mr. Schrock said, gave him "great empathy and identification with people who work hard."

He is currently a boating instructor for the Coast Guard.

Mr. Schrock emphasized his collaborative leadership style, sharing with the board a "Coffee with the Superintendent" program he created, where he meets with community members for coffee and discussion, outside the context of school or board meetings.

Mr. Schrock said he has procured millions of dollars in grants. He also said that curriculum should be "designed down and delivered up," meaning that students should always be prepared for the next grade.

He also emphasized the importance of extracurricular activities.

"A lot of kids stay in school because of extracurricular activities," he said.

"I'm a teacher at heart," said Mr. Schrock, noting his philosophy of lifelong learning can help him be a role model to students.

Mr. Schrock is involved in Rotary, Lion's Club, Kiwanis, coaching, boater safety, and church.

"I like to make sure our young people survive their teenage years," he said.

"You can never get enough personal education. You stop learning, you start dying," Mr. Schrock said of professional development within the school.

Of his thoughts on the board, he said, "The Board of Education is the finger on the pulse of the community."

Mr. Schrock believes board members should be school boosters and visible at school activities. When he was an administrator at Eaton Rapids, each board member was able to adopt a school in the district and be a support person for it.

"The bottom line," he said "always is what is in the best interest of kids."

He said 60 percent to 70 percent of the board's agenda should be student-related business. He added that the school board should educate the community.

"I'm going to be a hands on kind of guy... First to come, last to leave," he said.

Candidates were first asked to give a description of their background and experience and then to discuss how they would fit three of the eight characteristics of an ideal superintendent that the school board has compiled (see box).

The candidates were then asked to address motivation for applying for the position and special talents they would bring to it.

Business and fiscal issues were next addressed by candidates. They were asked what stage of budget development is the most difficult, what percentage of fund balance is adequate, and if five percent needed to be cut from the budget, what would be cut before personnel.

All candidates agreed that at least 10 percent was an adequate fund balance, although Mackinac Island school is currently above 100 percent.

In terms of students, questions included developing curriculums for elementary, middle, and high school students, the status of extracurricular activities in economically challenging times, comfort in dealing with children of various ages, comfort level with technology in the classroom and use of technology, meeting state mandated requirements, being a role model, and disciplinary skills and style.

Public relations and community involvement questions included asking about current involvement and what each candidate would hope to be part of on Mackinac Island.

They were asked how a superintendent can gain community support for projects and programs.

Questions about personnel and administration included resolving issues between students, parents, and teachers, dealing with favoritism, theories for gaining trust and boosting morale, leadership style, and emphasis on professional development.

Board and superintendent relations included the role of board members in school district affairs, the role of the superintendent when the board is unable to reach a consensus, who decides agenda items, input of superintendent on agenda items, and public involvement in meetings.

The candidates were also asked to address their strengths and weaknesses and what criteria they believed should be used to evaluate the superintendent.

General questions included appropriate dress of the superintendent, length of position, logistics of living, and salary requirements.

All candidates mentioned that they were not given any indication of what the Board was willing

to pay for the position. The Board released the salary range of "mid-$70,000's to mid$80,000's."The candidates then had the opportunity to ask questions of the board.

All candidates were concerned with finding a place to live on the Island and the cost of living.

After Mr. Schrock's interview Tuesday night, board members discussed their perceptions of each candidate and thought all showed promise for the position in different areas. Profile of Successful Superintendent

The Board of Education has compiled this "Profile of a Successful Superintendent," using ideas from teachers, support staff, and the community. 1. Address current financial challenges in a positive fashion. 2. Demonstrate effective interaction with the various constituencies of the district.

3. Guide the district in maintenance of the school's facilities.

4. Demonstrate the personal willingness to become involved in the activities of the school and the community which the school serves.

5. Demonstrate the leadership necessary to coalesce the various groups in the district to strive toward the achievement of shared goals.

6. Demonstrate the highest degree of integrity; project honesty, trustworthiness, consistency and openness to all persons.

7. Enhance the morale of both professional and support staff. 8. Is capable of working with students of all ages.

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