Few leaders are as important to a community as a public-schools superintendent. A strong public school system can promote pride, connect residents, strengthen entire regions, and even attract new families. Well-educated children grow up to be their community’s leaders themselves.
So when Duluth schools Superintendent Bill Gronseth announced last year he’d be leaving his post at the end of his contract, June 30, it created an opportunity to find just the right replacement for a district too often embroiled in disputes and despair. It’s a chance to finally turn a corner on decades of strife.
With one shot at getting it right, the Duluth school district hired professional experts in BWP and Associates to facilitate the search. Not only can Duluth district residents and taxpayers be relieved BWP’s process is to include plenty of community input, we can make sure we provide it — lots of it.
That can start with the simple filling out of a 12-question community survey at isd709.org/district/Superintendent-Search. We have until the end of next week. We can continue to be involved by attending and offering our views at an hour-long community listening session at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 27 at Denfeld High School. BWP is also meeting that day with stakeholder focus groups of students, staff, business owners, and others. With all the ideas, opinions, and information it gathers, it will help the district identify what it needs and wants in a new top administrator. A leadership profile will be written that can then be used to evaluate all applicants.
As the News Tribune reported last week, the application deadline is Feb. 14. Finalists and a final decision could come as soon as the final days of March.
The Duluth district right now is also looking for the community’s guidance and input on adjusting school attendance areas, or school boundaries. The goal is important: ensuring that enrollment numbers are appropriate for the different schools’ capacities, which goes a long way toward ensuring equitable opportunities no matter where in the Duluth district a student lives.
Several sets of possible boundaries, based on research and hard work, can be viewed at ISD709.org/district/isd-709-boundary-project. A community survey is there, too. Residents have until Feb. 3 at 8 a.m. to fill it out.
Two community meetings also are planned for input, opinion-sharing, and asking questions. Facilitated by school-boundaries experts from California-based Cooperative Strategies, the meetings are scheduled for next week: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22 at Duluth East and 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23 at Denfeld. The School Board is expected to consider adjusting geographic enrollment areas in February or March.
Duluth isn’t the only local school district that can be credited for remembering to seek the public’s input on big decisions that promise to impact the quality of education for decades, perhaps generations, to come.
The Carlton and Wrenshall school boards are surveying all their districts’ residents on the possibility of consolidating and on a facilities plan should the two districts become one, as the News Tribune reported in late December.
And the Hermantown school district also is looking for a new superintendent. It hosted a community meeting last week to ask residents what they wanted and what the School Board should ask candidates during interviews. Hermantown’s application deadline is Monday with a new superintendent expected to be picked perhaps as soon as early February.
They’re big decisions. Few are as critical to a community as those that impact public education. The chances of a community getting it right increase with the community appropriately being involved — and then seizing the opportunity by providing meaningful input.