Parents and students call for 'fairness and ethics' in next O’Fallon high superintendent
Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.
O’Fallon Township High School District 203’s school board, staff and parents have chimed in with what they would like to see in their next superintendent as the board’s search for Darcy Benway’s successor continues.
Benway is scheduled to retire June 30, 2024, after more than 16 years as the district’s superintendent. Last Tuesday, Board President Rob Brown announced that Benway “decided to step back from her role as Superintendent for medical purposes.” Benway submitted her intent to retire at a board meeting June 23, 2022, the board said.
Beth Shackelford has assumed the superintendent’s duties in Benway’s absence, continuing her over 20-year tenure with O’Fallon 203.
Brown said Benway’s medical departure has not changed the board’s timeline for its superintendent search.
The board began its search for the next superintendent in May. At a special board meeting on May 2, the board met with representatives of the Illinois Association of School Boards to discuss the superintendent search process.
At another special board meeting on May 8, the board approved bringing on the association for consultant services to identify, contract and appoint O’Fallon 203’s next superintendent before the 2024-25 school year.
During an open session at a special board meeting last Thursday, Illinois Association of School Boards Consultant Jim Helton reviewed the results of an online survey related to the superintendent search with the board.
The survey included a quantitative piece for choosing the ideal candidate traits and skills, a series of questions on preference of background — like whether a candidate has prior experience as a teacher, principal or superintendent — and an open comment section at the end.
The survey garnered 586 responses in total. All seven board members, 179 out of approximately 250 total staff and 400 parents responded.
“So all in all it looks like a very successful survey in terms of our response rate and kind of getting the perspective of the board, staff and parents,” Brown said during the meeting.
The survey found that, for the board, the top candidate trait was tied between ensuring organizational management for a safe, efficient and effective learning environment and experience in long and short-range district goal planning.
For staff and parents, acting with integrity, fairness and ethics was the most desired trait.
Previous experience as a teacher, principal or superintendent was not significant for the board, while central office experience was. For staff and parents, previous experience as a teacher and principal was significant, while central office and superintendent experience were less so.
The results of the survey are being consolidated and will go into an “announcement of vacancy” brochure that will be sent to a national pool of applicants by the end of the week and supplement the job vacancy that has been posted on the association’s website since Aug. 24.
Helton and the board also discussed the tentative timeline for the remainder of the search process, and the final dates will be communicated in the brochure.
The application period will tentatively close Oct. 12. Then in late October, the association will present the top candidates to the school board, and then the board will interview candidates in November in closed session.
The new superintendent will be appointed in late December or early January and begin on July 1, 2024.
Kelly Smits is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.