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Bemidji Area Schools approves new superintendent profile

BEMIDJI—Bemidji Area Schools' next superintendent should be approachable, visible, culturally competent and more, according to consultants hired to help find him or her.

School board members unanimously approved on Tuesday a "New Superintendent Profile," which staff from search firm School Exec Connect will use to assemble a slate of applicants for board members to consider this April. And, after the board narrows the candidate field to a handful of finalists, community members and board members can refer to the profile as they interview those finalists.

The consultants put together the profile after speaking with a series of community and business leaders, plus a plethora of school district staff, administrators and officials. In those meetings, several respondents said "addressing equity across the district" was one of its most important goals and pointed to its staff and programming variety as strengths. The achievement gap, they said on aggregate, is Bemidji Area Schools' greatest challenge.

The School Exec Connect consultants also put together an online survey to gauge the attitude of the community at large. Respondents there said the school district's staff was one of its greatest strengths and that class size was one of its greatest challenges. Top goals, they said, include maintaining programs for all student achievement levels and ensuring students are emotionally safe and confident.

Board members also agreed to move up the day they'll consider that initial slate of candidates. School Exec Connect is now scheduled to present five to seven candidates to the board at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 12. The board is scheduled to approve those candidates then, which will make their names public, and interview them all in a marathon series of meetings the following Saturday, April 14. Board members agreed to put a day between those meetings to give candidates more time to drive or fly to Bemidji.

Here's the complete list of attributes that school district stakeholders think the next superintendent should have, as approved by the board:

• Is an approachable and supportive team builder who brings out the best in others and interacts with all people in a manner which makes them feel valued, heard and empowered.

• Is highly visible throughout the schools and community, a personable leader with integrity who develops trusting relationships with the School Board, staff, students, parents and the entire community.

• Demonstrates cultural competence and experience working with racially and culturally diverse populations, seeks to recruit and hire staff who reflect the diversity of our students, and is committed to creating and maintaining a culture that is respectful, responsive and focused on closing achievement gaps and providing equitable opportunities for all.

• Reaches out to all people with strong engagement and communication skills, and seeks to build and maintain mutually beneficial partnerships with the city, township, county, organizations, civic groups, businesses, and Bemidji State University.

• Has successful experience planning, implementing and staffing programs and interventions addressing the diverse needs of students struggling with academic, socio-economic, or mental health challenges.

• Is a student-centered, instructional leader with a deep understanding of curriculum and instruction who facilitates a strong professional development program and supports the use of data in meaningful ways to foster continuous academic improvement.

• Is a creative visionary willing to take on difficult challenges and who encourages innovative approaches to improve student learning, increase funding, and create partnerships with parents, business, community, government entities, and higher education in order to strengthen Bemidji Area Schools.

• Is a collaborative consensus builder who listens with an open mind, uses data and input from those with multiple or diverse perspectives, and is able to synthesize, compromise and craft a shared vision before taking action.

• Has a successful track record as a superintendent or assistant superintendent and demonstrates a strong understanding of school finance, practices solid and transparent stewardship of taxpayer dollars and is able to craft a long-term vision to lead the district down a path of financial stability.

• Embraces the important role of technology in today's global society, facilitates improved infrastructure, works toward equity of access to technology for all students, supports best practices of technology integration, and ensures that the District provides technology professional development for all staff.

• Values and supports strong student athletic and academic co-curricular activities and fine arts programs, designed to enhance student achievement and build community involvement and support with opportunities for equitable participation by all students.

• Supports the development of high-quality early learning programs to enhance school readiness and family support for learning.

• Is politically astute in advocating for Bemidji Area Schools and its students, establishing strong legislative networks and coalitions.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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