In March, the Northshore School District will select and announce its new permanent superintendent. The district’s superintendent search began in September 2022 after the previous superintendent, Dr. Michelle Reid, announced that she would be leaving NSD at the end of the 2021-22 school year. Interim superintendent Michael Tolley is serving until the end of the 2023 school year. The new permanent superintendent will start shortly before the beginning of the 2023-24 school year.
Under Tolley, the district provided opportunities for the community to share feedback regarding district leadership, including which qualities would be important in a prospective superintendent. This included in-person and online focus groups as well as two online surveys that were sent to all NSD families in November 2022. In addition, town hall meetings were held through December and January. The town halls were attended by students, parents and district staff. Discussion followed a set of prompts for both the superintendent and district in general.
Participants noted that strenghts of the district include a welcoming environment and a caring and invested community, which are aspects they hope are maintained. They also said they wanted a superintendent who’s goal-oriented, transparent, amenable to learning and communicative when something isn’t working. One participant noted that it’s imperative that a prospective superintendent understands that there is a sense of urgency when it comes to achieving their goals.
One issue that divided participants at town hall was how much focus should be placed on mental health. Although useful and necessary, some felt that teachers’ check-ins on mental health are too frequent — and to the point where students without mental health issues felt as though there was something wrong with them for not having mental illnesses.
Another prevalent issue that the group wanted to see addressed by the new superintendent was safety and security on campus. In the past year, many schools in the district have faced bomb and shooting threats, and the recent school shooting at Ingraham High School in November has left the community concerned for student safety. Several participants mentioned that students felt unsafe following lockdowns or police presence and that families felt left in the dark following these incidents.
The district has made it clear that the goal of their search will be heavily based upon the feedback they received from the community in the surveys and town halls. School Board President Jacqueline McGourty said the district received a wide range of input from both the surveys and town halls, which they’ll use to determine the types of experiences needed in a new superintendent.
“For example, if people feel that we need much more and better communication between the superintendent and say, students, that’s something we’ll look for,” said McGourty. “We can ask them what their approach is and what their experience is working directly with students and focusing on student voice and things like that.”
McGourty also said the district had received 12-20 applicants when she last checked with the recruiting firm and that a total of 30-40 are expected by the application deadline.
“We’ve got some really, really good candidates, actually, from across the country — so far. It’s promising.”