DeKalb School District #428 is in the process of replacing superintendent, Dr. Brian Ali, who has resigned effective at the end of this academic school year for a similar position in the Kankakee School District.
Our local newspaper "Barbed" DeKalb residents for not showing up to a March 30th meeting to offer input on the selection and hiring of the new superintendent. This is my belated input to the DeKalb School District, and response to the Daily Chronicle's editorial and thoughts on the new superintendent.
The manner I have chosen to provide my input is to publish the Chronicle's thoughts (in red). followed by my comments (in black):
Here's what we need as superintendent in DeKalb schools
CHRONICLE: The new superintendent should, like Ali, be driven by what is best for the students of the district. You can disagree with what Ali did, but there is no arguing that his intentions were always the best. It is important that the new superintendent have the same sense of integrity.
MCINTYRE: I absolutely agree. At the DeKalb Growth Summit I publicly stated that I believe Dr. Ali was the best superintendent the district has had since at least predating Dr. Jack Deere. Dr. Ali compassionately expressed his commitment to raising the level of expectations for the students and staff of District #428. I wish him the best at his new employment and extend to him my appreciation for the service he provided this community.
CHRONICLE: The new superintendent should have experience in a district that is experiencing growth. If the development in the district stopped in its tracks today - and don't count on it - the district would still have to undergo a building program. If growth proceeds at the rate people expected, a massive building program will have to be underneath.
MCINTYRE: The new superintendent should have experience in growth, inclusive of new residential construction and infill growth in the older neighborhoods that are experiencing an influx of apartment and rental single family household students. DeKalb's sharpest increase in students over the past ten years has been from infill growth. S/He must have, within their personality, the ability to unify the community to meet the challenges of the district. S/He must possess the expertise and commitment to pursue alternative revenue sources, including voluntary donations of cash and in-kind services to meet capital improvement needs of the district.
CHRONICLE: DeKalb was once a white enclave. Our horizons are widening. There are more Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians moving to town. Students from 20 countries attend the DeKalb schools. The new superintendent should take advantage of the opportunities this presents to our community. He/she should be able to celebrate the diversity and ease tensions that often break out.
MCINTYRE: As our ethnicity has expanded so has the make-up of our households. There are an increasing number single parent households combined with a growing number of households whose members are struggling with housing costs. Recognizing and addressing the needs of the diversity in ethnicity, economics and social status will go along way with empowering the community with the ability to celebrate its diversity and ease the tensions before they break out.
CHRONICLE: The new superintendent will come to a town where more than half of the people work in the field of education. That means the new superintendent will have an immediate base of support. It also means everyone knows how to be a superintendent. There will be a lot of second-guessers.
MCINTYRE: If it is true that more than half of DeKalb's population works in the field of education then the new superintendent must realize that s/he does NOT have an immediate base of support -- for status quo nor past capital improvement nor past fund raising efforts. Instead s/he must be cognizant of the fact that three referendums have failed by a large percentage of voters and therefore even members of the education industry must believe that an alternative approach to capital improvements is needed.
CHRONICLE: The new superintendent should know the ins and outs of the state's Open Meetings Act. DeKalbites like to know that decisions are being made in public.
MCINTYRE: Yes, s/he should publicly blow the whistle on any and every attempt to circumvent the Open Meetings Act.
CHRONICLE: This community's largest employer affects much of what goes on in the school district - from school partnerships to the school calendar. Great things can happen if the district works closely with Northern Illinois University.
MCINTYRE: NIU is an important part of this community, as is each and every student and resident. The school district should work closely with the entire community. Great things will happen.
CHRONICLE: A thick skin is a requirement for the new superintendent. Some people with the best of intentions can be overbearing in expressing their viewpoints. Then some people are overbearing without having the best of intentions.
MCINTYRE: The district's highest paid employee should have the training and professionalism to handle criticism whether it is called for or not.
CHRONICLE: Teachers are on the front lines in the efforts to educate children. The new superintendent should always be willing to listen and talk with teachers about the best way to educate children. At the same time, he/she should always be willing to stand up to the teachers' union on policy issues.
MCINTYRE: And teachers should be allowed to freely offer their input without fear of reprisal from board, staff or union.
CHRONICLE: For all the problems, this is a great school district with tremendous administrators, great teachers, students who long to learn and a community that - while always willing to complain - is anxious to see the school district improve. The new superintendent will have opportunities that most districts envy. Its financial problems are trivial compared to other districts. Its long-range outlook is very good.
MCINTYRE: The school district is looking at cutting staff, cutting programs and increasing fees associated with educating our children. These are not trivial problems to the staff, students or community. Yes, our people are the best of the best. Include them. Involve them.
CHRONICLE: The new superintendent should have a sense of humor. He/she will need it.
MCINTYRE: While it may be true that there are really only three kinds of people in this world -- those who can count and those who can't -- there are many members on both sides of this fence who are willing to help, if invited.