"Courageous," "knowledgable," "engaging." The conversation about filling the shoes of retiring Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Jack D. Dale formally began Monday night at the South County High School cafeteria.
"I think we need a superintendent who has worked in a diverse community and who is sensitive to all ethnic groups," said Shirley Ginwright, newly elected president of the Fairfax County NAACP, at the meeting, which had five people in attendance.
More meetings will be held across Fairfax County this week to determine the qualities necessary for a new FCPS superintendent to lead the largest school system in Virginia.
Some came with specific issues in mind:
"The research is there that shows that start times we have for high schools are not in the best interests of our students, in the interests of their health, grades and achievement," said Terry Tuley, chair of SLEEP (Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal). "I would like to see a leader who says, 'Let me take the bull by the horns, be a leader and have the courage to pull this in the right direction.'"
Some came with simple requests:
"I think I would want somebody to be courageous — strong enough to say no, and to have a clear mission for the school system in a place where everyone can really be heard," said a school administrator who declined to reveal her name.
At the forums, representatives of Illinois-based Search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates - hired to conduct the search that resulted in Dale's hiring in 2004 - are taking feedback from parent groups, employees and students on these questions:
- What do stakeholders value about FCPS? What strengths do they desire to retain and build upon?
- What are the issues, challengers and concerns that FCPS currently faces and will face in the next three-to-five years?
- What are the personal and professional characteristics you and your community expect a superintendent to possess?
- Anyone to recommend?
More than 1,000 people have completed an online survey (which began on Nov. 26) identifying eight desired characteristics in a superintendent. The survey provides a list of 25 characteristics to choose from, including a candidate who holds a "deep appreciation for diversity" and is able to "communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and in a variety of ways."
Dale was hired by Fairfax County in 2004, and his contract was renewed for four years in 2009. He announced his retirement last fall, and that his last day at work will be June 30, 2013.
The School Board will receive the findings of the search firm at the end of December. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the report throughout the month of January, the selection process will begin in March and three final candidates will be interviewed by the School Board and a citizen-led committee in May.
The other forums will be held:
- Tuesday, Dec. 4 at Langley High School, 7 p.m. in the cafeteria
- Wednesday, Dec. 5 at Robinson Secondary School, 7 p.m. in the cafeteria
- Thursday, Dec. 6 at 8115 Gatehouse Road in Falls Church, 10 a.m.
- Thursday, Dec. 6 at Annandale High School, 7 p.m. in the cafeteria
- Friday, Dec. 7 at 8115 Gatehouse Road in Falls Church, 1 p.m.
All Fairfax County residents and FCPS employees are invited to attend the meetings and offer feedback.
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