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Sumner School District Raises the Bar in Superintendent Search

The Sumner School District is examining its core values and what the community really wants in a new leader by starting from scratch with a new hiring model.

When it comes to the next leader of the Sumner School District, the School Board want to get it right.

That’s why the district is “starting from scratch” and building a new model based on community input of shared core values before the job description is even written.

“One of the most critical things we can do in hiring a new superintendent is finding someone who shares the same values we do as an organization,” said SSD communications director Ann Cook. “You might have a number of candidates with the same professional backgrounds, but you want to make sure they really believe the same thing we do as a district—that putting students first is our first priority.”

The School Board decided to put public needs out front and, through a series of workshops, determined the district’s top core values to build a superintendent competency model.

The move to “value-based hiring” has already happened in the district, as it changed its policies last spring.

“Over time, we realized that, as an organization, we weren’t digging deeply enough in our hiring process. Someone might be more comfortable in a certain venue than another, and someone might be a really good fit for the culture of one particular school but maybe not across the district,” said Cook. “We want to ensure we all have the same set of values and take a broader look at someone.”

Throughout the fall, a mix of community members and SSD staff were invited to participate in focus groups to define what those shared values are and what is important to them in a leader.

District representatives in the focus groups represented staff from all levels and buildings, parents, administrators and district partners. Together, they built a list of qualities in an exceptional superintendent, based on criteria of essential skills and SSD core values.   

When representatives were asked in the focus groups what they wanted in a future leader, their answers were broad, thoughtful and deep.

“Our community is really enthusiastic and engaged in the process,” said Cook. “The most important thing about going forward with a new superintendent is to ensure that all the things we agree are important are represented and that this new leader can help us improve.”

Vancouver-based consultant Lee Goeke has been hired by the district to lead the hiring process and he lead the focus groups in Sumner.

The results of the focus group were submitted to the school board, now busy crafting a job application for the next superintendent, which should be available in January.

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What values are most important to you in a new leader of the Sumner School District? Tell us in the comments.

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