The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Education

April 30, 2013

With changes, ACS board has broader superintendent options

Chow plans to focus on student achievement in last year

ANDERSON, Ind. — The Anderson Community Schools board hasn’t had the chance to discuss the future when it comes to the next superintendent yet, but it may possibly have a larger pool of candidates to choose from with a new piece of legislation.

Passed in the Indiana General Assembly, House Bill 1357 removes the requirement for superintendents to have an educator’s license, allowing a school corporation to hire a superintendent with any kind of background so long as he or she has a master’s degree.

“There’s a lot of things to sit down and go over,” board member Tim Long said.

Currently, it’s hard to tell whether the change will affect ACS’s search for a successor to Felix Chow, who announced his plans to leave at the end of his contract in 2014. It’s difficult to find someone with the experience needed, period.

During the superintendent search after Mickey Lowe resigned in 2009, Long said, two-thirds of applicants didn’t even qualify and that Chow was “head and shoulders” above the rest.

“Finding a new superintendent quickly is not easy,” Long said.

Having the chance to hire a superintendent without a license means the board has more options, Chow said, but there are legal requirements and the reality that whoever steps in may not understand the issues and challenges of a school system.

It can be done, he said, but transferable skills are needed. Having an understanding of the field is just as important as having the leadership ability, according to Chow.

He gave an example of successful Pepsi CEO John Sculley, who took over for Apple in 1983 and wasn’t as successful.

Long said the board still needs to meet with the district’s attorney and the Indiana School Board Association to go over options and state changes.

In the meantime, Chow still has another year ahead of him. His contract doesn’t expire until June 30, 2014.

Under his leadership, The Crossing alternative school will open for struggling students this fall along with Southview Center, 4500 Main St., a centralized location to handle all of ACS’s preschool students.

Chow doesn’t foresee any other big changes.

“The community wants some level of stability, so we try to keep everything the same,” he said.

The focus will remain on the eight-step process, used to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses, to increase student performance and IREAD, he added.

While the school board hasn’t set up a timeline for the search to begin and a new superintendent to be found, it did receive Chow’s notice of non-renewal a year in advance, accepted April 9, giving it more time than usual to find a replacement.

If the board wants him, Chow will be there to consult on the search. And depending on his successor’s experience, he added, he’d be willing to do some mentoring.

“I’m flexible,” he said. “The whole point is to have a very smooth transition and find the best person (the school district) can.”

Of the possible challenges his successor could face, Chow noted the danger of enrollment fluctuations.

This year, ACS lost about 100 students. The year prior, it lost about 1,000.

He said it’s hard to know what to expect, but important to have the ability to make adjustments quickly, like opening a building if necessary.

“That kind of challenge is always there,” he said.

Whatever direction the board takes, state law requires a school district to disclose the proposed contract, including salary and benefits, to the public.

Much like the process the board held during talks about extending Chow’s contract in October, Long said, a public forum must be conducted on the proposed contract with a superintendent candidate seven days before it can be finalized.

Find Dani Palmer on Facebook and @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.

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