Public weighs in on schools search

Published 7:58 pm Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Strong leadership, teacher support, knowledge of the community and integrity are just a few of the qualities Suffolk citizens want to see in their next public schools superintendent.

Of the on-line submissions the Suffolk School Board has received in its search for a new superintendent, the most prominent request, included in nearly 25 percent of the responses, has been the specific plea for the Board to look outside Suffolk for a new superintendent.

Two of the first three comments submitted to the School Board via an online form specifically encourage the system to “look outward,” “go outside the city” and “not promote from within.”

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“I would like to see someone from outside Suffolk serve in the position of superintendent,” wrote another citizen. “Suffolk is still a growing district, so it would be ideal to recruit someone who has worked with innovative ideas in a growing district.”

Still others stated that an outside superintendent would bring a “new vision” and another wrote that it could bring “productive changes” to find someone without the “good old boy” attitude.

The requests could be especially relevant to Suffolk’s hiring process, since the city’s school system has a long history of promoting its leader from within the lower ranks, culminating in the promotion of Dr. Milton Liverman to the superintendent’s post from which he retired in July.

Two commenters, however, have argued in favor of such internal promotions.

“We have great talent at SPS and we need to reward our star producers with opportunity, one wrote.” I don’t think an inside candidate prevents fresh ideas or stops change,” another added.

Other commenters stated that the Board should consider someone who understands the community and has its best interest at heart.

Another topic of interest was the need for the new superintendent to understand the struggles Suffolk teachers face in their classrooms and to help boost morale.

“The candidate should be ale to encourage staff to meet higher standards while remaining positive,” wrote one person. “Many staff members this past year at my children’s schools seemed very stressed, overwhelmed and negative. While talking to staff, it became clear the change in attitudes was due to increased demands without any positives for the staff, which in my opinion were doing an excellent job. … A candidate that is more concerned with people, students and staff than SOL scores.”

Other suggestions included character traits, a woman superintendent, someone who will hire an African-American teacher for each grade level, someone passionate about education, a strong public figure, active in the schools and supportive of internal job transfers.

A total of 54 people have left comments online about the hiring process so far.

The deadline for applications is Aug. 16, and the School Board will discuss its course of action at its next meeting Aug. 19.

To see all comments submitted to the School Board — or to leave your own — visit