‘Honesty, trust’ key traits Demopolis seeks from DCS head

Sharing the results of an on-line survey and a series of stakeholder meetings, Dr. Laura Ingram Thursday outlined what Demopolis is looking for in its next superintendent of education.

Ingram, who has 40 years of public school experience, leads the Alabama Association of School Boards team that is assisting the Demopolis School Board in its search for a successor to Dr. Al Griffin.

“The No. 1 thing I heard from everybody was honesty and trust” in requirements for a superintendent. “On an application form that’s going to be hard for me to judge,” she joked.

After individual interviews with board members and study of the results from the survey and meetings, Ingram found that “You’re on the same page,” she told the audience of some 50 people and the board members in attendance.

“One of the things that came out loud and clear is that you consider Demopolis to be the jewel of the Black Belt,” she told the crowd. “You want this school system to be the leader…you are passionate about it.”

Ingram said 385 people took the survey, including 149 parents, 84 community members, 95 teachers and other school system employees and 25 students. Eleven respondents didn’t list a category, and four identified themselves as parents of private or home-schooled students.

Another 86 attended the open meetings, which was one of the largest groups to attend such meetings among the systems she has worked with.

“One of the things that came out in every meeting is that we’re a proud town,” she said. “We want people to be proud of our schools.”

Using a Power Point presentation, Ingram reviewed topics covered in both the open meetings and the on-line survey. Top on the list of what is needed in a great leader for Demopolis schools covered at the meetings is rebuilding mutual trust between the school system and stakeholders, and with teachers and support staff.

One of the most eye-opening results was how respondents to the on-line survey felt the school system was doing. Only four percent of employees felt Demopolis schools were headed in the right direction; 39 percent strongly disagreed.

None of the students said the school system was going the right way, but more than half were neutral about the answer.

Effective communication skills ranked at the top of importance in the on-line survey with all segments except employees, who put it second. They listed building employee morale as the most important skill a new superintendent should have.

Students who took the survey ranked preparing and managing budgets, facilities and projects as second on the list of importance. Other groups ranked that category as fifth or sixth.

Survey respondents strongly favored a superintendent with a master’s degree but were neutral on the need for a doctorate – except for students who ranked a doctorate as a requirement.

By far most who answered the survey don’t want the next superintendent to be hired from existing school employees but should come from outside Demopolis City Schools.

The majority favor a superintendent with administrative and classroom experience. A lower number prefer the next one to have served as a superintendent elsewhere.

When it came to challenges facing the school system, ranking first among all respondents was making sure students are prepared for work and/or college. Improving employee morale came in second. When broken down, those two challenges were reversed in employee responses.

Student answers differed quite a bit. Raising academic achievement ranked first, with readiness for work or college second. Providing cutting-edge technology came in third, a challenge that ranked toward the bottom among other groups.

Ingram said applications for the position of Demopolis City Schools superintendent will open May 28 and continue through July 6. Tentatively the finalists will be determined by the AASB and brought to the board by July 16.

If all goes as planned, each of the five finalists will be interviewed separately in a two-hour open session at the end of July. The announcement will be made in mid-August, with the new superintendent beginning in mid-September.