Fort Worth ISD has officially hung its help wanted sign for superintendent, and its next leader is expected to begin in September.
Candidates will have to meet characteristics and have qualities outlined in a community-guided superintendent profile and job description. The school board learned about the tall order ahead at its June 14 meeting. Trustees approved the profile and job posting in two seperate 8-0 decisions.
Community meetings and a survey formed the basis of the superintendent profile and job description. Superintendent search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates asked about the district’s challenges and what they wanted to see in the next top administrator. The search firm held 77 meetings and had nearly 2,000 people respond to an online survey.
What residents want in Superintendent Kent Scribner’s successor is someone who will be visible and accessible, a transparent communicator with know-how to navigate the issues that come with a large, urban and minority-majority school district.
All of that was boiled down to eight bullet points and packaged into a document the school board can use as it interviews candidates and, ultimately, taps the next superintendent.
Some trustees, though, found the search firm’s superintendent profile and job description lacking.
Trustee Roxanne Martinez thought the initial profile did not go far enough in meeting what residents wanted. The profile and the job description did not emphasize sufficiently the district’s diversity or the need for a good communicator, she said. Both guiding documents touched on it, but didn’t really state it strongly enough for the school board member.
“If this is what our community said, I feel that should be prominently in the description,” Martinez said.
Other trustees agreed with Martinez. School board member Anne Darr agreed but warned they need to be more specific than simply using buzzwords like diversity, equity and inclusion.
To emphasize this want, trustees decided to add a bullet point to their superintendent profile report. The extra point says the next superintendent will find ways to ensure better academic success for diverse racial, cultural and socioeconomic groups.
Board Vice President Quinton Phillips described the addition as all-encompassing. The next superintendent needs to have an understanding of Fort Worth ISD’s various groups while also knowing how to improve student outcomes.
“This is really what I was hearing around the district in what they were saying about what they wanted in a new superintendent,” Phillips said.
Board Secretary CJ Evans brought up the superintendent position description. The job post reads that the school board is looking for a candidate who will redesign, transform and revitalize Fort Worth ISD. She was not in love with that phrase. Evans saw those words as possibly attracting the wrong superintendent candidates.
“We don’t need a complete overhaul. We need to keep doing what is right,” she said, adding the next superintendent should not do a clean sweep of the district.
The school board scratched that phrase. The description now says the superintendent will work with a school board committed to improving student outcomes.
Trustee Camille Rodriguez pushed to add the word “urban” into the superintendent profile and job description. Rodriguez pointed out Fort Worth ISD is an urban district and its needs are different from suburban school systems, regardless of their enrollment size. Candidates from urban school systems will know how to work inside a diverse district like Fort Worth ISD, she said.
Constance Collins is a former superintendent working to find Fort Worth ISD’s next leader. She knows how intimidating these documents can be for the school board. Everything is riding on them to get the right person to lead Fort Worth ISD for the foreseeable future. Collins offered some advice for how to view the search process.
“You’re looking for someone who encompasses most of the qualities in here,” Collins said.
Peter Flynn, also working on the search, reminded trustees all candidates, even those who seemingly look like the right person, have room to grow and meet the qualifications outlined in both documents. In fact, he said, candidates should bring that up as they proceed through the interview process. Flynn tempered trustees’ expectations.
“There is rarely a perfect candidate,” he said.
Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.