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Daily Journal
December 28, 2022
#62-362 KDJ

Kankakee School Board prepares for superintendent

La Junta Escolar de Kankakee se prepara para el superintendente

By Stephanie Markham

KANKAKEE — The search for a new superintendent for Kankakee School District 111 is not quite underway, but the Kankakee School Board took a step forward last week when they heard tips from a consultant on how to start the process.

Gloria Davis, a retired 16-year Decatur superintendent who provides education consulting and works with M&M Consulting group, talked about running a successful superintendent search during the board’s meeting Dec. 12 at Taft Elementary School.

Board President Barbara Wells said Davis is a personal friend of hers and gave the presentation at no cost to the district.

The board has not yet hired a search firm to assist in finding a replacement for Superintendent Genevra Walters, who will be retiring at the end of the 2023-24 school year.

“[Davis] was someone that I just called to kind of explain the process to the board, so that they understand exactly what we’re going into and all of the factors that go into searching for a superintendent,” Wells said.

Wells noted that she and Jess Gathing are the only two members to have been on the board during a superintendent search in the past. After next school year, Walters will have held the position for 10 years.

Looking ahead, the board will plan to hold special meetings to further discuss the search, Wells said. The meetings will likely be in closed session because personnel will be discussed, she said.


Davis said the search process should be organized, transparent and based on established needs and goals of the district.

“We all know that the No. 1 job of the school board is to hire the superintendent,” she said.

Davis said board members should be on the same page regarding the current successes and challenges of the district.

“Successful candidates, as they are recruited and applying, ask many questions about the district,” she said. “It is them also reviewing the district just as much as the school board reviews them.”

The board should be clear on how to articulate those points as they begin to advertise the position and conduct interviews, Davis said.

“If they are in a successful position already, they are not always willing to leave unless they are very clear on the direction and the goals that they will have to develop and complete as they become the superintendent,” she said.

One of the beginning steps would be to consider selection of a search firm, she said.

The board would need to establish a request for proposals that spells out its expectations and explains the district’s background.

Some things to look for include a track record of successful searches in districts similar to Kankakee, she said.

“You want to make sure they have the ability to relate to your district, to come into your district and work with all your community and staff and constituents,” Davis said.

Other considerations include how involved the community should be in the search, she said.

“The community should be involved in some way, usually in terms of focus groups or town hall meetings,” she said. “There are lots of different formats that can be used, but the bottom line should be as you’re going through the process, [you’re] getting their input in terms of what they would like to see in a superintendent.”

Davis added that strong communication with the public is important, and that everyone should feel the process is transparent.

“There are no hidden agendas, because I have seen that truly backfire, and it makes it hard for the new incoming superintendent as well as makes it hard for the seven of you,” she said.

Davis said board members also should be clear on their desired timeline.

She said they could get started on selecting a search firm in January.

She suggested beginning the superintendent search in June 2023, aiming to have someone hired by January or February of 2024 and allowing time for a transition period.

The pool of applicants will probably be small, she said. There could be 40 or so applicants, with 15 of them likely to be serious considerations.

She noted the desired candidate may have obligations to their current job that must be respected.

In addition to receiving applications, the district might also look at recruiting a desired candidate from another district.

“In terms of a successful superintendent, they are not always looking for a job, so they have to be recruited,” she said.

Recruitment will be important especially in the current market, as superintendent of a school district is not a job many are seeking, Davis said.

“The market now is — I’m going to be very honest with you — everybody is not jumping to be a superintendent,” Davis said. “The climate in the country in terms of the political landscape, what superintendents have to address, that is just sometimes very, very large in terms of those challenges that the districts face.”

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Stephanie Markham
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