HOLCOMB — The Holcomb USD 363 Board of Education formally closed out the district’s superintendent search process with the Kansas Association of School Boards Tuesday, mapping out a direction for the district under new superintendent Scott Myers.
Myers, who officially began work July 1, met the board and KASB Leadership Specialist Gary Sechrist for a special open meeting,
Sechrist said he has been working with the district throughout the superintendent hiring process, meeting with the board now four times over the past several months to understand USD 363’s needs and review processes with the board. Earlier in the search, he met with focus groups of teachers and staff members to hear what all employees wanted in a superintendent and advised the board on which candidates to interview, he said.
“The number of candidates is not as large as it was even five years ago, but Holcomb really drew a great candidate pool, so I felt really comfortable. Going in, I knew the type of community that they had, they would get a good pool,” Sechrist said.
Myers has served as director of teacher licenses and accreditation and director of title programs at the Kansas State Department of Education, superintendent at Jefferson West USD 340 in Meriden and Elkhart USD 218, dean of students at Ross Elementary School in Topeka USD 501 and assistant professor at his alma mater, Washburn University. He earned his doctorate from Kansas State University.
In his 31 years of teaching, he said that the first few weeks of school at Holcomb were some of the smoothest he’s seen. Myers is a fan of western and southwestern Kansas, and told board members he “bleed(s) orange.”
He said he had been aware of Holcomb when acting as superintendent in Elkhart and through his work with the KSDE. Always, he said, the people he interacted with from the district felt professional and, like the region they lived in, kind and welcoming. Even the first moments of the school year felt “collegial” and “Americana,” he said.
“They’re really good people out here. They just are. They take pride in being from southwest Kansas. They take pride in being from their community. The people here bleed orange because they’re all pulling for the (Holcomb) Longhorns. And our kids are Longhorns. I really appreciate that. I’m sure other parts of the state have that, but I think it’s more poignant here … I think people walk out with their hands extended to shake your hand rather than a balled fist,” Myers said.
On Tuesday, Sechrist led Myers and board members, all of which were present except Kasey Robinson, in a breakdown of what the governing powers expected from each other and what subjects they would focus on in the upcoming year.
The KASB representative discussed the superintendent’s role to recommend and the board’s role to decide on district issues, and asked board members to outline goals for the 2018-19 school year. They discussed the district’s recent changes, like ethnic diversity and the teacher shortage, as well as potential threats, like losing large, local job markets, as well as challenges, like staff satisfaction and and financial stability.
Then, they laid out subjects for Myers to focus on this year.
Most board members agreed on more specific student pathways for graduation, improvement of grounds, teacher and staff recruitment and expanded vocational programs. On top of that, they asked Myers to keep the board informed, be visible and available to the students and staff, consider community input and be innovative.
Afterwards, Myers said, visibility and attention to students as individuals were key priorities for him. He said he strived to visit the district’s four buildings as much as possible and had so far visited most every classroom. Being present, be it at sporting events, student activities or student lunches, was important to him, he said.
“That’s, once again, another reason Holcomb was enticing to me. It’s big enough to have resources to provide options for our students, but it’s not so big. We should know every kid’s middle name. It’s small enough, we should be able to do that,” Myers said.
The focus on students expanded into a curriculum plan Myers brought to the district: a system that would build an individualized plan for each student based on career interests.
The idea would differ from the academy program that Garden City USD 457 uses, working with students on a continuous one-on-one basis to understand their long-term career aspirations and giving them the resources they needed to succeed in their K-12 classes, Myers said.
Currently, district principals were researching a technological tool that would allow teachers to measure and track students’ progress individually to best serve their goals, Myers said. He said the tool would be presented to the board at their meeting next week.
In the meantime, he is working to meet the board’s expectations by keeping in touch regularly in between meetings.
Tuesday, Myers asked the board to communicate with him, be engaged with and passionate about the district, desire to improve and show overt support for him and the schools.
“Overt support is not blind faith. That’s not what it is. It’s engaged action … Being engaged in a conversation and having some form of meaningful contribution to it. That’s overt support. It’s being meaningfully engaged,” Myers said.
Sechrist said the board would need to evaluate Myers twice during his first year, once 60 days into the first semester and again 60 days into the second semester. Because there is no formal evaluation criteria for superintendents, the process is wholly up to the board, Sechrist said.
“Whatever the board says is an evaluation is an evaluation. But I hope you think about it differently, in that a valid evaluation is very important to you guys’ team building. That he needs to know what you think of the work he’s doing,” Sechrist said.
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