APS superintendent wish list: Teachers, students and parents list of district’s liabilities and strengths


AURORA | A background in public education, experience in a large school district and a proven track record with diversity and inclusion were some of the top characteristics that community members said they would like Aurora Public Schools’ new superintendent to have, according to the results of a report released yesterday.

At Tuesday evening’s board meeting, the school board was presented with the results of a “candidate profile” compiled by HYA, the firm that APS contracted with to conduct the search for its next superintendent. The final report is now available on the district’s website.

HYA held a series of focus groups and individual interviews over the course of the past month to gather feedback about what people wanted in the district’s next leader, along with sending out an online survey. The focus groups and personal interviews included a total of 500 people, and 1,884 people completed the online survey. Participants included APS students, parents, teachers and staff.

Scott Siegfried, one of the HYA associates leading the search, said that the firm asked people to describe APS’ biggest strengths, biggest challenges and the qualities they wanted in a new leader. The four main traits people named were:

-Demonstrated strength and skills in diversity, equity, and inclusion

-Demonstrated ability to provide effective leadership to a large school district

-Demonstrated strength and skills in providing physically and psychologically safe schools

-Someone with a background and belief in public schools

Overwhelmingly, Siegfried said people cited the district’s diversity as one of its key strengths, along with a supportive community, its dedicated teachers and staff and its opportunities for students.

On the flip side, one of the biggest challenges people cited was the ability of the district to effectively meet the needs of its diverse student population. Other challenges included the impact of trauma, poverty and language barriers and physical and psychological safety in schools. HYA held focus groups with students at seven APS high schools, and Siegfried said the students specifically cited issues with violence and drugs at schools.

On the staff side, Siegfried said a significant issue was a lack of trust across the organization, though the firm was not able to pin down a clear cause.

“Regardless, the impact is real and permeates the culture of the district,” the report said. “Trust appears to have been eroded with communication struggles, competing visions and siloed department functioning creating an atmosphere of competition instead of collaboration.”

In speaking to staff at focus groups, Siegfried said issues around school closures as part of Blueprint APS were brought up multiple times and may be a driving factor.

“It was the ‘how’ of things, not the what as much but the how things happened in their estimation,” he said.

The board’s own ability to work together was also named as one of the district’s top five challenges.

“There’s questions in the community around the seven of you, and a feeling that at times you are divisive amongst each other and with leadership,” Siegfried said.

The hiring application for the position closes on Friday. So far, Siegfried said that 24 people have started or completed an application.

In an earlier interview with the Sentinel, HYA vice president Mike Ritchie said that the firm typically gets 20 to 50 candidates per search.

Siegfried said that APS currently has a strong candidate pool.

“There are some individuals who would be great for Aurora,” he said.

Siegfried said the firm will suggest a slate of six to eight final candidates based on the candidate profile, who will then deliver a presentation to the board in closed session at a March 20 meeting. On March 28, the board is scheduled to publicly announce the final candidates on March 28, who will visit the district in person and have final interviews in April.

Ritchie said that they aim for boards to select three finalists, but it sometimes is two or four instead.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Siegfried suggested moving up the timeline for when HYA delivers its slate of finalists to the board to give the candidates more prep time before they present and more time for the board to consider their applications. The board is now scheduled to meet with HYA on March 14 in closed session to be presented with the slate.

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