High school student leaders in North Thurston Public Schools know what they want to see in the district’s next superintendent: someone who can solve problems, manage money effectively and stay active in the community.
“I would say flexible, like flexible to change,” said Martha Arriaga, 16, a junior and ASB secretary at River Ridge High School in Lacey.
Noni Pickard, 17, River Ridge’s ASB vice president, said she thinks the district needs to hire a leader who is bold enough to try new things and is passionate about their work.
“Whatever they do, they do it wholeheartedly,” she said.
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Eight students participated in a forum Wednesday afternoon organized by Michael Boring and Bill Bleakney, the two consultants hired to search for the next leader of the nearly 14,700-student district. In December, superintendent Raj Manhas announced that he will retire in June after leading the district for seven years.
The meeting was one of nearly a dozen events designed to collect input from teachers, staff, students and community members on the characteristics and skills that people want to see in North Thurston’s next superintendent.
Participants also are being asked to share their thoughts on challenges the district will face and the strengths of the school district and community as a whole.
“We’re asking the same questions everywhere,” Boring said.
Community members are invited to share their input through the district’s website or at a meeting from 7-8 p.m. Monday at the School District office board room, 305 College St. NE, Lacey.
The superintendent job announcement was posted about a week ago, and Boring told students that he expects to get applications from around the country, possibly even from around the world.
So far, about 10 school districts in the state — including Peninsula in Gig Harbor, and Snohomish and Edmonds, north of Seattle — have superintendent openings, Boring said.
“We’ll probably be competing with those districts for candidates,” he said.
The North Thurston School Board is looking for candidates with budget and management experience, Boring said. What about a background in education?
“They would see it as an advantage, not a requirement,” he said.
State law doesn’t require education experience or teaching licenses for school superintendents, Boring said.
In fact, Manhas is an example of a nontraditional superintendent: He worked in banking and was director of operations for Seattle Public Utilities before he was hired as chief operations officer and superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. He was the executive director of the “Seeds of Compassion” gathering with the Dalai Lama in Seattle in 2008 before coming to North Thurston.
“We’ve had some who have had a career in the military and moved into education,” Boring told the students. “Really it’s a matter of what the local school district thinks is most important for them at this point in time.”
Applications must be submitted by Feb. 29. After that, the consultants will conduct background checks. The School Board will interview semi-finalists in mid-March and finalists in mid-April.
The board is scheduled to select a superintendent April 26, according to a timeline posted in a brochure about the job opening.
Pickard said she is glad she participated in the forum.
“I think it’s really interesting that I have a voice, and it’s cool that it’s being heard,” she said. “I wanted to be a voice for our school.”
Community members can share their input through the district’s website at nthurston.k12.wa.us or at a meeting from 7-8 p.m. Monday at the School District office board room, 305 College St. NE, Lacey.