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D159 receives parent input at superintendent search forum

The search for the next superintendent of Mokena School District 159 is moving along.

A community forum held Sept. 18 allowed parents to provide input on the process.

School officials recently awarded a contract to the national search and consulting firm to advance the district’s plan to find its next superintendent. Since that time, efforts have focused on interviewing board members and focus groups, providing an online survey and holding an open forum for staff.

The meeting, led by Tom Madden, a partner for School Exec Connect, brought in a number of parents.

The discussion centered on questions seeking input on the strengths of the district, issues and challenges that will face the new superintendent, and qualities and characteristics the public wants to see in the next individual who assumes the role.

Madden said these questions are essential in finding the best-fit person for the job.

“There are some superintendents of high quality [and] great skillsets that work well in Rockford [and] that work really well in East St. Louis, but wouldn’t be the right fit here,” he said. “What I’ve been spending the time talking to people about in these three areas helps me understand what a good-fit means.”

Several people in attendance for the meeting cited interest in superintendents that possess a solid understanding for finances.

Amanda Herman, of Mokena, said finding the best-fit person to serve as the district’s superintendent is important to her.

“The state of the district is concerning,” she said.

Herman is the mother of a second-grader in a D159 school and another child who will be in kindergarten next year. She said she anticipates living in the district for a while, and wants to ensure her children’s success in school.

“I can’t come to the board meetings regularly, but I like to stay involved,” she said. “I saw an email [promoting the forum,] and I figured I’d come.”

Herman has a few characteristics and qualities in mind as the firm looks to begin its search for the next superintendent focused, in part, on knowledge of finance, leadership, curriculum and communication. She stressed that it is important to find someone to fill the role that understands what it is like to serve a school district like D159.

“We have a small district,” she said. “[With] the ages of the kids, I don’t want someone who has only led high school kids. Our kids are young, and we want someone who can relate to the District 159 community.”

Madden recognized such concerns and said limiting the scope of the search to individuals who already reside in the district is not a sufficient way to approach the matter.

While School Exec Connect is to perform a search that attracts in-state candidates, the firm anticipates reviewing half-a-dozen others from outside of Illinois.

Several people who spoke during the forum wanted to see candidates who can promote transparency and leverage communications.

To fill the position, School Exec Connect anticipates retrieving 40 to 50 applications by the Oct. 20 deadline. At that point, the firm will look to interview 20 to 25 potential candidates. That list will be narrowed down and a slate of six people will be presented to the Board of Education.

The school board is expected to begin initial interviews the week of Nov. 27. Officials will need to make a decision by mid-December after representatives from D159 staff and community conduct a final round of interviews.

A superintendent contract is to be considered in January 2018, with the new hire assuming their duties by July 1, 2018.

If unable to attend the forum and interested in providing input, the district encourages the public to fill out its online survey by visiting

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