Who Will be the Next D161 Superintendent?
The Summit Hill school board begins the process to hire a new superintendent at Wednesday's meeting. And the board president already has her eye on the ideal candidate for the job.
Since Keith Pain's unexpected retirement in late May, Summit Hill School District 161 has been without a permanent superintendent. The district's school board will start the process to change that when the members discuss at Wednesday's meeting at Dr. Julian Rogus School how to proceed with a candidate search and the eventual hiring of the position.
The district has been gathering input from parents surveys at recent school teacher conferences about what they want in a new superintendent, said D161 Board President Mary Kenny. The board will take those recommendations Wednesday and decide whether to have a town hall meeting to let other members of the district community--including teachers and administrators--voice their opinions on the hiring, she said, adding that such a meeting would probably be Dec. 1. A search firm would then be hired no later than January.
However, if it was up to Kenny, the district wouldn't need to go through the entire process when it has the best candidate for the job already doing it.
Barb Rains has been serving as the interim superintendent for D161 since the summer, while still retaining her role as Summit Hill's human resources and public relations director. And according to Kenny, she's the perfect person to fulfill the superintendent role on a permanent basis.
"Barb Rains has been wonderful. ... Barb is definitely a possibility," Kenny said. "As far as I'm concerned, I'd be perfectly happy working with her. Sometimes you think you'll find someone from the outside who will be the perfect savior, and that's just not the case.
"I'd be willing to work with Barb Rains and (newly hired Assistant Superintendent) Jim Martin as our administrators because I think they're open and ready to work with (the board). At least, that's the sense of what I'm getting so far," she added.
Apart from Rains' qualifications, Kenny said another big reason to change Rains' status from interim to permanent is to keep momentum going when it comes to the progress the board has made this year solving district problems.
"It takes time for a new person to get the lay of the land," Kenny said. "I don't want to waste anymore time. We're moving forward and getting things straightened out. I would hate to waste the time backtracking and starting over again. ... But I'm only one voice. It's a seven-person decision. I'm just telling you how I feel."
When it comes to a new superintendent, what are other D161 board members looking for in a candidate. Patch spoke with some of them to find out.
Joy Murphy, board vice president (via e-mail): "What I am looking for in a superintendent is the following: Someone that truly loves children and is visible in all schools. Someone that can work well with staff, parents and the board of education. Someone that will embrace and listen to the needs and concerns from our community. Someone the staff can trust and go to with any concerns/issues. This person needs to have the ability to resolve issues promptly. Someone that is fair and honest and listens to all school community members. Someone that has a strong work ethic, that can lead the district to excellence. Someone that will put children achievement first, with a vision for Lincoln-Way North to rise from the bottom of Lincoln-Way Schools to the top! I believe this person needs to share the vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion!"
George Perros: "I think someone with the knowledge to do the job. Someone with a professional personality to work both sides of the fence. ... Someone who can work with homeowners, parents, teachers and unions, principals, board members as well as talk to the media. It's someone who can do all this and function as a superintendent. I want a go-getter and someone who's got a fire lit. Someone who is energetic and will work to do their best for Summit Hill."
Sean William Doyle: As a past board president, Doyle has had some experience hiring a superintendent. He was on the board when the district hired Pain.
Experience is at the top for Doyle, adding that a candidate should have worked as an administrator in a district roughly the same size as D161. The candidate also should have a strong financial background and, ideally, will have worked a little bit in the classroom, not just the front office.
When it comes to working with the board, Doyle said he would like to have a superintendent who is not afraid to challenge and disagree with the board.
What qualities do you think a superintendent candidate should have? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section.