The Herald Bulletin

August 3, 2013

Editorial: ACS board must choose new superintendent wisely


ANDERSON, Ind. — The Felix Chow era at Anderson Community Schools will soon be history, and it's time for the school board to look for a new top administrator.

Chow notified the board Monday that he will retire effective Aug. 30, after having placed the board on notice back in April when he opted out of a contract extension that would have kept him on board with ACS beyond 2014.

The timing of Chow's resignation certainly isn't ideal. The school year will soon be in full swing for ACS students, and the board will have to appoint an interim superintendent, most probably from within the ranks, as it begins searching for a permanent replacement for Chow.

Here are a dozen qualities the board should consider as it seeks a new leader for the school system:

1. Integrity. Without this quality, nothing else really matters.

2. Experience. Chow's past tenure at the helm of schools in Flint, Mich., served him well in helping put ACS's finances in order.

3. Vision. The new superintendent should have an ambitious but practical view of the best possible future for ACS.

4. Communication. The ability to explain the vision and solicit buy-in will be imperative.

5. Energy. To deal with the myriad of responsibilities that fall to a superintendent while being active in the school buildings and in the community takes a great deal of mental and physical gumption.

6. Listening. Too often, superintendents turn a deaf ear to people with grievances and ideas. Parents demand administrators who will listen, really listen, to problems and proposed solutions.

7. Commitment. Superintendents make a lot of money and some have been known to hop from job to job for increasingly better benefits and more prestige. ACS needs a leader who is committed to the school system for five years or more. Chow's tenure, at three and a half years, was a bit short to establish the sort of continuity that is so important to a healthy school system.

8. Collaboration. The best superintendents work well with building principals, teachers, parents, community groups, the school board and the teachers' union.

9. World view. The superintendent should be aware of how education is changing nationally and across the world, and should be willing to borrow liberally from successful programs and policies implemented elsewhere.

10. Courage. Making the right decisions for the school system, even when they are unpopular, is crucial.

11. Transparency. Leaders who guard information breed distrust.

12. Student focused. In the end, it's all about what's best for the students and not necessarily what's best for teachers and administrators.

Chow's base salary, including a travel allowance, is $143,000. ACS may have to go beyond that in attracting a superintendent who embodies the qualities listed above. That's OK, within reason, as long as the school board doesn't fall into the trap of providing a golden parachute or other overly generous benefits.

With financial and enrollment stability finally achieved and some student standardized test scores and graduation rates generally rising, Chow has positioned the school system and his successor to take additional steps toward creating a school system that attracts rather than repelling students.

The board must cast its candidate-search net broadly and choose wisely.

In summary The Felix Chow era at Anderson Community Schools will soon be history, and it's time for the school board to look for a new top administrator.