Special meeting

Olean City School District Board of Education members Mary Hirsch-Schena (from left), Paul Hessney and John Bartimole participate in Thursday's special meeting on the district's superintendent search. The board discussed several aspects of the search, including the results of a community survey on what they'd like to see in the district's new leader.

OLEAN — The Olean City School District community is more concerned that its next superintendent has integrity than a doctorate degree or published books.

That’s according to the results of the district’s online survey, which asked parents, staff and community members what qualities they’re most looking for in the district’s next leader and was discussed by the OCSD Board of Education on Thursday night at a special meeting on its superintendent search. The meeting was led by the board’s search consultant, Dr. Alan Pole of Castallo & Silky LLC, who also in a closed-door session with the board discussed a list of candidates and finalized the contract the district will offer.

Respondents rated inspiring faculty and students, having integrity, making people feel at ease, being visible and accessible, and understanding curriculum issues as the most important qualities in the district’s next superintendent. The least important qualities were having a doctorate and published books or articles, being active in state or national affairs, and having prior experience as a superintendent or another central office administrator role.

“Interesting that a lot of this, as you look at those five things, talk about how a superintendent is a people job and how the superintendent interacts with people is really important,” Pole told the board. “You can see what people value very highly.”

The results give the board permission to have a wider criteria when it comes to academic credentials, said board Vice President Laurie Branch.

“It’s more about their person and their ability to provide these sorts of less concrete skills and talents, as opposed to academic talents,” Branch said.

Board member John Bartimole said the results are “absolutely on target,” adding that every candidate will be qualified and that it’s simply an issue of fit.

“That’s what every job comes down to: who you’re comfortable with,” he said.

However there was some concern about making sure the candidate is well versed in state education policy. Board member James Padlo said he was surprised that a number of respondents rated knowing state law as not important.

Pole said “at some level it is important,” but to keep in mind superintendents have access to a district attorney for guidance. A district the size of Olean, with about 2,000 students, has enough administrative staff who specialize in different areas, he added.

“In smaller districts, the superintendent has to know everything — special education, physical education,” he said. “Whereas here you have people who are on the superintendent staff (who know that).”

Pole said he’s done similar surveys in his other superintendent searches, and the results were no different from OCSD’s.

“I can tell you that these three or four (answers), these are the same three or four that come up everywhere and the things that are not terribly important in Olean are things that not terribly important in other districts either,” he said. “It is amazing how similar these results tend to be.”

About 300 people responded to the survey, which Pole said is good for a district the size of Olean. He also said the fact that 92 percent of respondents were either faculty, staff or parents of the district is normal, as the vast majority of people who fill out such surveys are directly involved with the district.

The board moved into a closed-door session after the meeting with plans to discuss the list of candidates Pole has collected thus far and finalize contract details.

Board members at a December meeting said the contract would include an annual salary ranging from $150,000 to $175,000. The average superintendent salary in Cattaraugus County this school year was $148,222, while the state average was $172,962, according to the New York State School Boards Association.

The board recently extended retiring superintendent Dr. Colleen Taggerty’s contract by a month to the end of July but said the process is still on schedule and expects to hire her replacement sometime in April.

(Contact reporter Tom Dinki at tdinki@olean timesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)

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