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What Does Manhattan Beach Want in a School Superintendent?

Jun 03, 2021 11:30AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

The Manhattan Beach Unified School District headquarters.

What does Manhattan Beach want in its new school superintendent? At the Wednesday night school board meeting, the consulting firm in charge of hiring a new superintendent for the Manhattan Beach public schools revealed the results of a survey sent to community members.

According to consultants Suzette Lovely and Gary Rutherford of Educational Support Services, a total of 1,669 stakeholders responded to the survey. Respondents included Manhattan Beach  Unified School District parents, students, teachers staff, and community members. The consultants also had a total of 220 Zoom conversations, phone calls, emails, and focus groups. 

All told, 55% of respondents said that they were hoping for a candidate "with the same general leadership style and educational philosophy as the previous administration, but who is able to make some necessary changes." 

That response compares with 31% who said they wanted a candidate "who is ready to take the district in a significantly different direction;" and 14% who said they wanted someone "who will stay the course and continue the good work of the previous administration."

The three most desirable leadership skills, according to survey respondents, were "knowledgeable about best practices surrounding teaching and learning" (62.4%), "forward thinker and open to new ideas (61.8%), and "develops clear and compelling vision for the future" (58.6%).

Further behind were "fosters climate of trust and mutual respect" (55.9%), "ensures district is fiscally solvent" (54.8%) and "establishes culture of high expectations" (54.3%) 

The three most desirable personal attributes were "problem solver" (72.6%), "strong communicator" (71.5%), and "honest and ethical" (68.2%). (The characteristics of "good listener" and "resourceful" fell further behind at 37.9% each.)

Among the most desired skills and expertise, "curriculum and instruction" was far out ahead with 86.3%, followed by "fiscal management" (68.4% ) and "strategic planning" (59.9%). Further behind were skills of "innovation" (52.3%) and "labor relations/negotiations" (47.9%). 

In written comments received, one of the leading areas of concern was "a full reopening of in-person learning, with virtual options." The school board has passed a resolution promising to open schools full-time with a regular schedule for the 2021/22 school year. 

MBUSD Superintendent Mike Matthews is set to retire at the end of the school year. The board has said that they intend to have a new superintendent installed by July 1.

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