PRAIRIE GROVE -- Kenneth James, lead consultant on the search for a new superintendent for Prairie Grove schools, gave an update at the school board's Feb. 21 meeting.
James with McPherson & Jacobson LLC said he, along with Megan Duncan, have completed the first two phases of the search. These phases included working with the school board and meeting with focus groups and the community to identify criteria and gather input.
He gave a brief summary of the input and discussed the next steps with board members. A press release and a stakeholder report are available to view on the school district's website, pgtigers.org.
"It was a great day in the district," James told board members. "We got wonderful input from everybody."
James said everyone was "very candid" with their comments and input during meetings on Feb. 8. Those in the focus groups were asked to name the greatest assets of the community, the strengths of the school district, characteristics/skills/attributes that are important for the next superintendent and some key issues the next superintendent will face.
The stakeholder report summarizes replies given by the different focus groups: students, administrators, classified staff, certified staff and community. The report also includes comments that were provided through an online survey. James said those comments are all unedited, except if a person was mentioned by name, then that name was deleted.
Of the online replies, 75% came from teachers, according to the report. Many of these comments pointed out a supportive, safe, tight knit community with teachers who care about their students. Many comments also had critical things to say about administration and the school board and the lack of trust between those and teachers. Several online comments described a "good ole boy system" within the district and a school board that tends to overstep its responsibilities.
James said the summary report is not claiming that everything people said is true but is telling the board what was reported by the focus groups.
"If it's not a fact, it's a perceived issue," he said.
From comments made in the focus groups, James said the consensus for all groups was that people care about the school district. One comment made was that people "bleed black and gold," he said, adding, "You can see pride. You can feel pride."
He said all groups are very excited about the opportunity for a new person to come in.
"Everybody is pretty much on the same page and that is exciting for you, folks," he said.
Going through the rest of the search process, James said the deadline for applications is March 28. The firm already has received some applications though James noted most will come in right before the deadline.
After the deadline, James and Duncan will begin a "deep" vetting process of all the applications. Following this work, James said he will meet with the board in open session April 19 to talk about the recommended candidates.
The board then will go into closed session to discuss which candidates to bring in for interviews the first week of May. The board will come back into open session to publicly announce who will be invited for interviews.
The different stakeholder groups will meet for an hour with each candidate during the interview process and provide a form to school board members on what they feel are the strengths of the different candidates.
The board will interview each candidate for two hours and use a scoring rubric to help in making a decision about the candidates.
"We're very excited about the process. I think we're going to have some good applicants for you," James said.
He will return to the board's March 14 meeting to give another update.