Bonneville educators, patrons provide input on superintendent search

IDAHO FALLS — Patrons and educators in the Bonneville School District want a superintendent who is focused on students, has strong communication skills and strikes the right balance between effective leadership and autonomy for others.

Most of all, they want someone they can trust.

“Trust is so majorly important in this conversation,” said Gene Smith, assistant principal at Ammon Elementary School.

Some 50 parents, teachers and school administrators gathered at Thunder Ridge High School Wednesday night to outline the skills and attributes needed for the person selected to replace outgoing superintendent Chuck Shackett, who will retire at the end of this school year.

Principals from the district’s 15 elementary schools gave trustees a consolidated rundown of what they want to see in the new leader. In addition to emphasizing trust, they listed consistency, a heavy focus on student needs, a “forward thinker” who is familiar with the rapidly growing school district and someone who can “keep the district on a good path.”

“We need someone who can continue to manage the growth through long-range planning,” said Hillview Elementary School Principal Elisa Saffle.

Some parents reiterated the need for trust. They would also like a superintendent who can communicate and work effectively with the school board and the community.

“This is a big decision,” parent Nick Torman told trustees.

Trustee Chad Dance told attendees that the district will hire a trustworthy candidate, but that it’s up to that person to then “gain the community’s trust.”

College of Eastern Idaho president Rick Aman emphasized the need for someone who supports Idaho’s broader push for college-and-career readiness.

“We’re here to partner with you,” Aman told the school board, adding that Bonneville students should be graduating high school with at least 15 college credits.

“We’ll move them on to the university or help them find a job,” Aman added.

The meeting also fleshed out less-desirable qualities, after Dance asked attendees whether the new superintendent should command a deep understanding of the complexities of school finance, or rely more on Bonneville’s chief financial officer Guy Wangsgard.

Hillcrest High School principal Scott Miller said effective leadership should trump financial expertise in the search for a new leader.

“In Guy we trust,” Miller said to loud cheers and laughter from the group.

Bonneville is East Idaho’s largest school district, with 12,527 students in 2017-18.

Wednesday’s meeting was part of the school board’s self-imposed timeline to replace Shackett by Feb. 13.

Other suggestions from Wednesday’s discussion included:

  • Continuing the district’s emphasis on professional learning communities.
  • A servant-oriented leader.
  • A good listener and collaborator.
  • Someone who maintains an “open door” policy and connects well with other employees.
  • Someone aware of the district’s socioeconomic diversity.
  • Someone who understands and can communicate state and federal mandates and policy changes to leaders across the district.

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