If all goes as planned this time, Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) will have a new chief administrator selected in March 2014.
The recruitment efforts have begun with the help of BKB Executive Search Consultant Jerry Robicheau, who offered a leadership profile to be used in the search process to the board on Thursday.
After meeting privately with individual board members, community leaders, WAPS staff members, and reviewing the responses from community members in an online survey, Robicheau drafted a list of qualities necessary in a new leader and challenges he or she will face.
One challenge indicated that the new WAPS superintendent will have to "[address] facility issues and the budget ramification associated with operating too many facilities."
Robicheau said in an interview that the statement that WAPS has "too many" buildings was not an assertion that they must be closed, but that the district's physical makeup presented challenges in ensuring that students in all buildings were given equitable resources.
Desirable traits listed in the leadership profile included the ability to build problem-solving teams, empower staff members while holding them accountable, and working collaboratively to build consensus. The list of challenges the new leader would face include a need to be creative to enhance revenue sources and maintain academic excellence, said Robicheau. That being said, "There isn't anything that needs to be fixed right away," Robicheau explained. "Obviously, in public education, there's a lot that needs to be fixed, but it isn't evident in Winona at this time. There isn't a real urgency as far as the financial condition of the district."
The search for a new District 861 superintendent has proven difficult in the past. After former superintendent Paul Durand's contract was not renewed, former principal and academic affairs director Scott Hannon took the job on an interim bases in July 2010. District officials delayed implementing a permanent replacement process and decided in January 2011 it was too late in the year to recruit for the job.
A search began in late 2011, with interviews conducted in February 2012. Hannon had told the board that he would be willing to continue as superintendent, but would not compete for the job and apply for the position. Just as the board was set to narrow the candidates to finalists for a thorough vetting, board members Steve Schild, Greg Fellman, Ben Baratto and Gary Shurson expressed preference for Hannon to stay on the job. After hearing the majority of the board preferred Hannon, each finalist withdrew from consideration. Following the failed recruitment effort, the board offered Hannon the job with a split 4-3 vote.
Robicheau said he was not concerned that the process would be stymied this time, nor did he think the failed recruitment effort in 2012 would affect the number of candidates who might apply for the job now. Only five applicants have come forward thus far, Robicheau told the board, but added that district leaders should not worry, as often applicants study a community during the initial position opening before applying for the job.