Superintendent will need to wear variety of hats

Freedom Newspapers

The next superintendent of Clovis Municipal Schools can’t be one dimensional and succeed. That person must bring multiple talents to the challenges he or she will face.

In short, the ideal candidate must be politically astute, a creative and persuasive problem-solver, proactive and visionary, understand and handle diversity issues, and, above all, be someone who can unite and lead an education community that is quickly changing and sometimes uncomfortable with its evolution.

Finding the right person will take time. Fortunately, the district has that luxury, thanks to veteran educator G.C. Ross. He has agreed to be interim superintendent until June 30.

We applaud the school board for hiring Ross and allowing plenty of time to fill this position. Ross, 66, retired three years ago after a 36-year career in Clovis schools that included 15 years as assistant superintendent for instruction. School board members unanimously trumpeted his ability to guide the district for seven months.

As successful as Clovis has been recently in academic improvements, building and equipment updates, and with several sports programs, the district will attract many candidates starting Jan. 3. And their diverse backgrounds and experiences will require careful consideration.

Ross steps in for Neil Nuttall, who left after 7 1/2 years to accept the president’s job at North Central Missouri College.

In an e-mail exchange with the Clovis News Journal earlier this month, Nuttall outlined several challenges his successor will face. Among those will be legislation in Santa Fe.

“The funding changes over the next few years will be significant and require new revenue coming to school districts,” Nuttall wrote. “… Our voice and influence must be present in the Legislature during this development. Knowledge and experience in working with finance is very important.”

The new superintendent also must adapt to federal mandates in the No Child Left Behind Act, he stated. “We must not abandon our efforts to develop learning opportunities for all children.” The new superintendent must bring knowledge and experience with high-risk children, Nuttall wrote, and a “… demonstrated commitment to innovation and research-based educational developments.”

We would add that Clovis’ top municipal educator should also strive to develop ways to return control of schools to local communities, even knowing that state and federal meddling will not go away anytime soon. He or she must guide Clovis to a point where its students meet national and local standards, which should be even higher.

A key component of Nuttall’s legacy will remain his ability to upgrade the district’s infrastructure. So the new superintendent must be capable of completing capital outlay projects that Nuttall and his leaders started, but then outline a plan for more. That means working closely with state legislators and the governor’s office so they are aware of our needs, and convincing them we are responsible with our requests.

Most everyone with an interest in Clovis’ public schools can agree on these common goals:

• Improve test scores — that should be every school’s No. 1 priority, every year.

• Increase graduation rates.

• Involve more students in extracurricular activities.

• Improve security to ensure that every student and teacher feels safe.

• Improve communication between administrators, teachers and staff.

The new superintendent will be charged with finding ways to accomplish all those goals. That is far easier to say than to achieve in a community where well-meaning people don’t always agree on the best path to take. Disagreeing yet still moving forward is a requirement if our children are to receive the best education possible in Clovis.

The school board will accept applications through Feb. 28, review them and announce five finalists in March. The salary will be about $100,000.

School board member Terry Martin said all discussions and decisions related to Nuttall’s replacement will be done in open meetings. We’re glad to hear that. Public involvement is a key step to a successful search.

That doesn’t mean the most vocal contingent automatically gets its way, only that it should be heard publicly so the board can learn what the others think before hiring a new superintendent.