More than anything, Billings School District 2 trustees want their new superintendent to play well with others.
At a Monday night work session, trustees ranked the top five qualities they wanted in a new superintendent. At the top of the list was diplomacy and an ability to foster positive relationships in the district and the community.
At the meeting were representatives from McPherson & Jacobson, the search firm trustees hired last month to find the district's next superintendent.
“The first thing we ask boards to do is establish the most important skills and qualities,” said Tom Jacobson, the firm’s CEO.
SD2 trustees put together a list of three dozen qualities and then ranked the list in order of importance.
Along with strong personal skills, trustees want a superintendent who has a solid understanding of best educational practices; can lead the district and the community on facilities issues; is focused on students and has a strong educational vision.
The list reflected this board’s experience with Superintendent Keith Beeman, who ended up being a divisive figure for trustees, district staff and the community.
He resigned in October after 16 months with the district and was replaced by interim Superintendent Jack Copps, who will step down in June.
Absent at the meeting was any talk of Josh Middleton. Late last week, Middleton — assistant superintendent and a favorite among trustees to take over the district — announced he had chosen not to apply for the job.
With their list of qualities established, trustees then set forth the timeline they wanted McPherson & Jacobson to use in finding the new superintendent.
McPherson & Jacobson proposed a timeline that had trustees voting to hire their final pick on May 15. Trustee elections this year will be May 8. Up for election are Chairwoman Teresa Stroebe, Kathy Aragon and Allen Halter.
After some discussion, the board voted unanimously to let the post-election board choose the superintendent candidate.
Allowing McPherson & Jacobson the time it wanted for finding and vetting candidates will ultimately get the board better finalists, Jacobson said.
“A district your size is going to attract quality candidates regardless of whatever timeline you use,” he told them.
But by allowing his firm to do thorough and extensive background and reference checks on the candidates, trustees will have all the information they need to make an informed decision, he said.
Over the next month, McPherson & Jacobson will organize community meetings to find out what parents, residents and leaders want to see in a candidate.
They’ll also organize meetings for the candidates themselves when they come to town to meet with various community groups.
“You’re going to have a wealth of information,” he said.