Understanding, communication and collaboration important for new LWSD superintendent
October 27, 2011 · 4:36 PM
From reading to kindergartners and reviewing curriculum with teachers, to meeting with city council members, legislators or the governor, Kimball said every day is different.
"(Being a superintendent) is one of the most diverse and interesting jobs on the planet," he said.
Part of this variety comes from serving a diverse constituency and working to meet the needs of all while protecting the district's No. 1 priority: satisfying the students' interests. In order to be successful, it has been important for Kimball to really understand his constituents.
This is the single most important piece of advice Kimball has for his successor, who will replace him at the end of the school year. Kimball is stepping down in June and will become superintendent of the Singapore American School (SAS) in Singapore, beginning July 1, 2012.
The LWSD board of directors has begun its search for a new superintendent and is currently gathering information from community members about what they want in a superintendent. The public has been able to provide input through an online survey on its website under "What's New on this Site ..."
LWSD communications director Kathryn Reith said the survey is a combination of multiple choice and open-ended questions. More than 1,700 people have taken the survey, but the district hasn't released results yet since the survey is open until midnight tonight.
The public also had an opportunity to comment on the subject during Monday's regular board meeting and only one person spoke. Redmond resident Bob Yoder said he thinks with the district's current search for a new superintendent, now would be a good time to provide job descriptions for all of the district's administrative positions, starting at the top.
No matter what the superintendent job description may be, it would be no match for the hands-on experience.
"It is learn as you go," Kimball said.
Throughout his tenure, he said he has worked with a variety of populations and one thing a superintendent needs to do is try to make sure these people feel heard and that there are systems in place for people to make themselves heard.
While it's important for people to be heard, Redmond High School senior Deesha Tank said it's even more important for the superintendent to listen.
"LWSD really needs someone who is willing to hear what the kids have to say and work with us to steer our district in a positive direction," she said. "Also, it is important that he or she not only listens, but also takes these ideas and actually implements them rather than throwing them on the back burner for later."
Tank understands certain issues may be more difficult to resolve and involve compromising from all parties involved, but she said determination and attentiveness are the most important qualities a superintendent should have.
"At the end of the day, the goal is to provide a better curriculum and learning environment for staff and students," she said. "Anyone who believes in this and who has a positive and assertive attitude is someone who would make a great superintendent for LWSD."
Tank is a member of the Redmond Youth Partnership Advisory Committee (RYPAC), a youth leadership program with the City of Redmond for junior high to high school students living or attending schools in Redmond. The program is made up of youth and adults who work to shape community programs for young people.
One of the ways they do this is by meeting with the LWSD superintendent every other month.
RYPAC recreation committee chair Brynn Ehni said it's also important for the new superintendent to know about the upcoming changes in the district such as next year's grade reconfiguration and understand the impact this would have on students. Like Tank, Ehni, who is a junior at Lake Washington High School, stressed the importance of listening.
"The new superintendent should take the time to speak with students and be open to their input about the new structures," she said.
Jan Pizarro, Redmond area vice president for the Lake Washington PTSA Council board, agreed that it is important for the district to have a superintendent who is willing to work together and collaborate with others.
"As a council member, I'd like a superintendent willing to include PTA in the conversation about the direction our district takes, and that sees PTA as a partner in the process," she said.
Pizarro and her family have been part of LWSD for nine years. She has a fifth grader at Redmond Elementary School and an eighth grader at Redmond Junior High School. She said as a parent, she wants a superintendent who considers the dynamics of working families when making district-wide decisions about school days, transportation, schedules and other issues. Pizarro would also like a superintendent who keeps "parents informed well in advance of those decisions and the reasons behind them, and is open to feedback and changes."
Sometimes feedback will not be positive and Tim Patterson, principal of Inglewood Junior High School in Sammamish, said a superintendent should understand this is not a bad thing.
"Sometimes great work comes from conflict," he said. "We need a superintendent that is willing to engage in conflict for the purpose of (making) our schools better."
Patterson, who has been with the district for 10 years, said Kimball has done a great job as superintendent and his successor should be able to finish the initiatives he started.
"Currently LWSD has a positive growth culture," Patterson said. "The new superintendent needs to have the ability to grow and enhance our culture."
Kimball added that it's important for a superintendent to have a vision and not only know where they want to go with the district, but to have the courage to go there.