742 Comments from 2,500 Respondents Voice Qualities Desired in a Superintendent

(Photo courtesy of Noblesville Schools)
Noblesville Schools is seeking a replacement for retiring Superintendent Beth Niedermeyer, and the members of our community have voiced their opinions in a survey of what they want in a new superintendent

I just read the results released for the Noblesville Schools superintendent survey.

And I was pretty much spot-on with other surveyed participants in what they wanted in a new superintendent after Dr. Beth Niedermeyer retires at the end of this school year. Niedermeyer has been superintendent of the district for eight years, since 2014.

About 2,500 people gave their input, including Noblesville residents, school parents and school staff, to this online survey, which ended this month.

It was a very brief survey, three multiple-choice questions with space to write feedback. Here are responses from the three questions.

Question No. 1 asked what should be the top three priorities for the school district. Survey participants’ top three priorities are 1) attracting high quality teachers (about 80 percent), 2) improving student achievement (about 60 percent) and 3) improving effectiveness of teaching (just more than 40 percent). The only other response that I suggested was “improving the teacher evaluation plan,” which, in turn, would also improve effectiveness of teaching and improve student achievement.

Question No. 2 asked the two most important personal characteristics the next superintendent should have? Survey participants’ top priorities were 1) good communicator (40 percent), 2) problem solver (more than 35 percent) 3) trustworthy (more than 30 percent) and 4) approachable (more than 20 percent). My additional response, a write-in, was to “continue to strive to find root causes behind student failure and low motivation.”

Question No. 3 asked the two most important professional skills the next superintendent would have? Survey participants’ top priorities were: 1) ability to lead strategic planning (more than 55 percent), 2) instructional leadership (more than 40 percent), 3) ability to motivate others (about 30 percent), and 4) human relations skills (about 25 percent). My additional response was that the new superintendent would have a strategic vision to identify community goals and help teachers meet performance goals while requiring teachers to ensure that students succeed.

Of the 2,500 responses, 742 comments were recorded and fell into four theme areas: 1) hard shoes to fill, 2) not political, 3) support various groups, and 4) specific political support.

There were 108 comments that fell into the “hard shoes to fill” theme. These respondents were “very supportive of the work of the current superintendent and complementary of her efforts over the last several years.” Respondents said Niedermeyer did a “fantastic job” and especially “loved her handling of the pandemic and her commitment to keep our kids in school.” Niedermeyer has been “a known presence in the district to staff and parents.” One respondent said the “next superintendent will hopefully share many of the same wonderful qualities.”

There were 68 comments that fell into the “not political” theme. This group of respondents asked that the new superintendent “to not be political or take sides in the community on political topics.”

There were 161 comments that fell into the “support for various groups” theme. One respondent said, “I want a superintendent who values parent input, partners with parents and students and makes academics a priority.”

There were 105 comments that fell into the “specific political support” theme. This group of comments included 57 specifically asking for the new superintendent to not support Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools.

Another group shared 48 comments asking the next superintendent to specifically support teaching diversity and/or CRT topics in the school district,” according to the survey results.

One respondent said, “Students should be learning about inclusivity, problem solving and conflict management while also gaining skills necessary to advance (math, science, reading, writing, social studies, etc.) It’s important to me that our school is a safe place for people of all races, religions, socioeconomic status and sexual orientation.”

A counterview comment read, “Please do not hire someone who subscribes to ‘woke’ ideals or bends to CRT, equity, inclusion or diversity ideology. That does not belong in the education system. That lies in the parental/home realm. Hire an individual who values student achievement, making sure there are no impediments for any student.”

Other themes included academics, school calendar, needs of special education students, extracurriculars and athletes.

Of the survey participants, 47.3 percent, or 1,191 respondents, were parents of an elementary student; 32 percent, or 806 respondents, were parents of a high school student; 29.9 percent, or 752 respondents, were parents of a middle school student; 18.6 percent, or 468 respondents, were community members; 17.5 percent, or 440 respondents, were certified staff members; 9 percent, or 227 respondents, were classified staff members; and 1.6 percent, or 41 respondents, were administrators.

There was no cost for the survey, said district spokesperson Marnie Cooke. The University Search Team (a project of the Ball State, Indiana University, Indiana State University and Purdue University Schools of Education) which conducted the survey, is a nonprofit service and used a Google form to survey.

– Contact Betsy Reason at [email protected]