Community weighs in on superintendent search

By Cecilia Fox -

BETHEL TWP. — Last week, consultants met with members of the Bethel Local Schools community to gather their input on the characteristics the district’s next superintendent should have.

Participants in the community meeting, about 20 people, said that the schools are the heart of a community that is split between “new Bethel and old Bethel.”

The feedback from the community meeting and meetings with other district stakeholders were used to shape a search profile to help the consultants find candidates. The district hired K-12 Business Consulting to help conduct the search for Superintendent Ginny Potter’s replacement. Last fall, Potter announced her intention to retire at the end of this school year.

Representatives from K-12 Business Consulting, Debbie Campbell and Karel Oxley, spent Feb. 7 meeting with board members, school administration, teachers, support staff, students, community members and elected officials.

The community group largely agreed on the district’s strengths, which they listed as its teachers and support staff, a close-knit community, growing diversity, involved parents and community, and the new high school addition.

“We don’t have a town, so the school is … the heart of the community,” one parent told the consultants.

Participants cited the district’s growth as both a strength and a challenge. The district’s enrollment has grown from 974 in 2012 to 1,557 in January 2019.

They also talked about tension between “old Bethel and new Bethel,” newer residents and families who have been in the school district longer. One parent said that new Bethel families like hers are less invested in keeping the district’s older buildings and are more interested in new classroom facilities.

The group also pointed out what they see as tension between the district’s staff after contract negotiations that stretched for more than a year. Some members said that there is a lack of trust between the community and the district because the high school addition changed from earlier plans.

Those surveyed ranked the characteristics that they see as the most and least important in a new superintendent.

According to K-12’s survey results, the top five most important characteristics are: the ability and willingness to deal fairly with faculty, staff, students and parents; effectively creating and implementing a vision for the district; strong interpersonal and public relations skills; personal involvement and interest in the community; and successful experience as a superintendent.

The least important characteristics were listed as: fiscal management expertise, effective written and verbal communication skills, effective organizational and management skills, expertise in design and implementation of instruction and curriculum, experience in socially and economically diverse student population.

Campbell said the survey participants said that the district needs a “visionary” who can help develop a long-term plan for the district’s future.

The search process includes four to six weeks of recruitment of eight to 10 candidates. The consultants will also meet with the board to screen initial candidates before a meet and greet with candidates, staff and community stakeholders. There will be up to two nights of first round interviews and one night of second round finalist interviews.

The entire process is expected to last a couple of months with the hope of choosing a new superintendent who will work with the outgoing superintendent before the end of the school year.

By Cecilia Fox

Reach Cecilia Fox at

Reach Cecilia Fox at