Kyle Kallhoff DCS Superintendent Interview – 7/22/2015

Kyle Kallhoff talks with community members following his interview Wednesday at Rooster Hall. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Kyle Kallhoff talks with community members following his interview Wednesday at Rooster Hall. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Kyle Kallhoff, superintendent of Chickasaw City Schools, interviewed for the Demopolis City Schools superintendent post Wednesday, July 22. The following is an overview of the interview that took place before the DCS board of education and a capacity audience at Rooster Hall.

Q: Please give us a snapshot of your professional experiences and your belief in public education. We have five finalists for this position; convince us that you should be the one. 

A: Began teaching in 1997. Served as testing and data specialist with Mobile County Schools; assistant superintendent with Fairfield County Schools in South Carolina; assistant superintendent/director of instruction with Clarke County Schools; technology trainer with Software Technology, Inc.; first superintendent of Chickasaw City Schools.

“I believe every child should be given the opportunity to learn. I believe it is our job as education administrators and as teachers to make sure we find whatever resources we can to make sure the children are successful.”

He said he is transparent in all his actions. “I’m an honest man.”

”Whatever system I lead, I’m going to produce students who are decision-makers, problem-solvers, critical thinkers and innovators.”

Q: A superintendent has to have tremendous passion, belief and commitment. How do you know when it is time to act and when it is time to listen and learn? How have you balanced collaboration while maintaining your leadership role?

A: “I’m pretty passionate about what I do.”

Will gather information before acting with the following exceptions: student safety, laws that might be broken and the integrity of the school system being compromised.

“Collaborations is a large part of my leadership role.”

“I’m a shared leadership kind of person.”
Will work with key leaders and stakeholders

Q: Please describe what you think the role of superintendent is as it relates to successfully engaging our staff, students, families and community toward a common vision and successful outcome. 

A: “That’s almost my job description.”

“I’m the CEO of the organization.”

Will attend meetings of community groups to get feedback.

DCS will be updating its strategic plan during the 2015-2016 school year. As superintendent he would lead that process to make sure it is aligned to the current needs and goals.

Q: High performing students and closing the achievement gap are priorities for Demopolis City Schools. What leadership and guidance would you provide to ensure that these expectations are properly evaluated and adjusted for all students?

A: He said Demopolis schools already have high-performing students.

Principals are the instructional leaders and are guiding the discussion and studying the data to determine how students are doing.

If not measuring up, must determine the reasons together and come up with a plan that all agree with.

As for achievement gap, “the process is similar, but first you have to identify the gap.”

He suggested professional development days for teachers during the school year and collaboration of teachers within each school and among all schools.

Q: When a new superintendent is hired, the transition should be as smooth as possible. How would you help both the educational community and the community at-large adjust to the new governing style that you would bring?

A: “I’m a hands-on, visible superintendent.”

“They’re going to see my ‘students first, support teachers, high energy, optimism’ immediately.”

“I’m going to volunteer to speak at every civic organization in Demopolis” to build trust.

Q: As you know, school districts across the state face financial constraints due to the economy and funding issues. How have you been involved with budget development and ongoing fiscal management in the past? 

A: Reviewed the steps he took in starting Chickasaw City Schools in 2012 with a budget of $26,000 and the system’s growth since then.

Seeks partnerships to pay for what can’t be budgeted and for resources.

Q: We are looking to expand partnerships with Shelton State, UWA and local businesses. We will need a facility for this project and major renovations will be necessary. What are your experiences in dealing with construction and budget issues on large project?

A: Reviewed the ongoing $400,000 renovation projects in Chickasaw.

“If we’re dealing with public funds,” he said, “we have to hold folks accountable.”

He will rely on community partners.

Q: Based on what you know about our school system, what do you think is the greatest potential for improvement?

A: “Demopolis is the jewel of the Black Belt.”

“You have all the ingredients to be a great school system.”

Most scores are above average. Having scores below average is not acceptable in Demopolis schools.

“Demopolis should be in the top 10 when it comes to test scores.”

Q: An increase in enrollment is one of our goals. Give us your best 2-minute speech to encourage parents to enroll their children in our school system. 

A: Asking the board and audience to “fast forward” one year, he answered that he and his wife Christina moved to Demopolis with their four children and enrolled three of them in the city’s schools.

The schools, he predicted, provide a safe, secure, well-disciplined learning environment. Students are engaged, challenged and using technology; teachers teach rigorous college and career-ready standards, administrators who visible and instructional leaders. Clean, welcoming environment.

“I wouldn’t have my children in any other place.”

Q: All employees appreciate being valued and respected. What is your plan for boosting and keeping morale up while requiring high expectations of everyone?

A: Review of ways he has recognized teachers, school workers and students for their accomplishments

Using social media to inform the community of achievements

Q: Our district has a code of conduct. Describe your ability to cultivate a disciplined, safe and orderly school environment. 

A: “Part of our job is to overcome opposition.”

He would get the community into the schools to show what is going on.

Make sure students know what is expected.

Provide consistency

Have consequences for actions.

He hasn’t seen bad kids, only those who are bad decision-makers.

“When kids have that sense of ownership and pride,” he said, that ends some of the discipline problems.

Q: You have identified an administrator that needs improvement. What process would you use to improve the competence of that person and what corrective actions would you take? 

A: He would work with the administrator to see the problem and then work collaboratively to find support to solve the problem. Together they would put a plan in place and then monitor progress.

Q: The Demopolis City Schools Foundation, the Demopolis PTO, the media and the community at-large play a vital role in the support of our schools. Describe what your relationship would be in continuing this tradition.

A: “First and foremost, establish trust.”

In his current post he gives a State of the System address and invites all stakeholders to attend to keep them abreast of the health of the schools.

He would serve on committees and boards and invite those organizations to be represented on school system committees.

Q: Demopolis is a diverse community. As a new superintendent, what steps would you take to ensure that all groups are fully engaged and treated equally?

A: He would work with the community in preparation of the next strategic plan, keep the city informed through social media and perhaps send a newsletter to all residents of the city as he does in Chickasaw.

Q: How would you handle a situation if a group or individual came to you with strong differing opinions concerning grades, punishment, athletics, etc.? Along with that, you have a respectful disagreement with a board member on a specific issue. How would you proceed?

A: After they go through the proper procedures before reaching his office, he would listen and then try to view the issue from their perspective.

He would share data to support the decision that was made.

“You want to support teachers and administrators.”

The board and superintendent will not always agree, but they have common goals.