By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
As requested by the Little Falls School Board, consultants from School Exec Connect (SEC), based in the Twin Cities, created a report representing a summary of how several focus groups perceived the district. That report was accepted by the Board at a meeting Tuesday night at the Little Falls Community High School.
Dr. Antoinette Johns and Dr. Charles Kyte from SEC went over the report with the Board, gleaned from questions asked during meetings with concerned residents and employees of the district, or from an online survey available to the community.
The focus groups included district and building administrators, parents and community members, students, non-certified staff, PTA members, community leaders and teachers.
Summarized, the strengths of the district as portrayed by the focus groups included:
• The community takes pride in its child-centered schools and high quality teachers;
• The community support of the schools through resources and the referendum;
• A good learning environment;
• Clean and safe facilities;
• Strong support from the staff, parents, community leaders and students for the iPad initiative;
• Support to align curriculum to the state standards and among the schools;
• Significant co- and extra-curricular activities;
• The large number of students participating in after-school options;
• The stability of funding and the good management of those resources;
• The support of 21st Century education; and
• An interest in Early Childhood and Family Education (ECFE) programs.
Challenges in the school district were also noted by the community. They included:
• Concerns about financial stability;
• Curriculum needs to be more challenging due to 21st Century skills being added;
• Technology needs to be valued, maintained and advanced;
• The district’s diverse nature must be addressed as it affects student learning;
• The reputation of the district needs to be maintained and improved;
• More support for less successful students;
• The need to reach out and work with others to meet common goals;
• Increasing options for industrial and technical education;
• The need for staff development to be increased to widen participation and to address best instructional practices;
• Passing the levy renewal to maintain programs;
• The need for continuity with the curriculum and in the goals for student learning in all the schools;
• Eliminating the waiting lists for ECFE programs;
• Making sure students’ needs are being addressed; and
• Addressing the lack of vocational and industrial arts programs.
To summarize, SEC said the district’s new superintendent should be a person who:
• Creates a vision and plan for the district that ultimately creates excellence for all students;
• Understands and is able to address the needs of the students, thus giving them multiple options upon graduation;
• Is of high integrity, has excellent interpersonal skills, is approachable, friendly and available;
• Is an experienced, visionary leader who works well with staff, community and business leaders;
• Is a leader who understands the value of economic diversity and can implement programs to ensure student success, particularly ECFE opportunities;
• Is willing to provide staff development to ensure success, close learning gaps and keep the district on the leading edge of technology;
• Has a strong understanding of school finance, budgets and can lead the district in maintaining a stable financial course;
• Is an active member of the community on a daily basis;
• Is able to build a strong team, bringing out the best in others while holding individuals accountable; and
• Communicates well and frequently in person and in written form, while also listening and considering input.
“We are excited to see the changes and growth in Little Falls since Superintendent Curt Tryggestad was hired,” said Johns. “We feel there is already a strong pool of candidates for your new superintendent.”
When the applicants for the position have been honed to two or three candidates, they will meet again with the focus groups. Each person in those groups will be given a feedback form to fill out and each board member will be given a copy. From those, the board members will be able to formulate questions for candidates in a second interview, expected to take place during the last part of May.
After the conclusion of the interviews, the Board will make its final decision on who will be the new superintendent of the Little Falls Schools.