Middletown Schools leader search draws public, city officials input

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Middletown Schools leader search draws public, city officials input

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The public parts of the search for a new Middletown Schools superintendent continued Wednesday evening as the consulting firm hired by the district held two public forums to gather input on what qualities the next school leader should possess. The first meeting — pictured here at Highview 6th Grade Center — included Middletown city leaders. MICHAEL D. CLARK/STAFF

It was one of the last chances for Middletown residents to offer their thoughts on choosing the next leader of the city schools.

Not many showed up Wednesday evening for Middletown City Schools’ last public input meeting — about a half dozen residents — at the district’s Highview 6th Grade Center to discuss the hiring of a new superintendent.

But officials with the superintendent search firm hired by Middletown Schools said they aren’t discouraged because the previous meetings — and the online survey responses so far — have been productive in their formulation of a profile of what the next school leader should be like.

Chris Mohr, a search consultant with K-12 Consulting, said Middletown officials are moving at a timely pace to optimize their candidate pool.

Soon, said Mohr, a “significant window will slam shut” when it comes to attracting viable superintendent candidates because of the hectic nature toward the end of the school year.

Prior to the public meeting, K-12 officials met with city leaders in an open forum, which included Middletown Mayor Larry Mulligan Jr., City Manager Doug Adkins and Health Commissioner Jackie Phillips, to get their opinions on what qualities they’d like to see in the next superintendent.

The ability to expand stakeholders for the city schools is important, Phillips said.

“It’s vital to involve the community,” she told the consultants.

Middletown resident Cal Wills agreed, adding he is looking for strong leadership.

“I’m looking for somebody who is innovative and has new ideas,” said the father of two Middletown students. “The same old, same old is not working here.”

Wills said he appreciated the recent public forums and the online option for residents to offer their comments via a questionnaire.

Mohr said more than 100 residents have filled out the survey so far — the deadline is Friday — and about the same number of participated in previous public meetings.

The “Search Profile Criteria Questionnaire” can be found at www.middletowncityschools.com by clicking on “Superintendent Search.”

Current Middletown Schools Superintendent Sam Ison announced in March his retirement as head of the 6,400-student school system.

The 60-year-old Ison, who has been the district’s superintendent since 2013, has spent 38 years in public education. Prior to joining Middletown Schools he was a long-time principal at Warren County’s Lebanon High School.

Under Ohio law, publicly elected school boards make two hiring decisions and do so by a majority vote. Boards hire superintendents and school district treasurers.

Middletown Board of Education President Chris Urso wasn’t able to attend the meeting but said the public outreach is a key part of the search and hiring process.

“We are optimistic that we will hire a superintendent that best fits what our schools require to ensure our graduates transition into adulthood with doors open for success and contentment. To ensure this occurs we recognize the need to actively listen to stakeholders and greatly appreciate the community’s involvement in choosing our next school leader,” said Urso.

The board’s timetable shows final interviews of candidates will take place in May and the board expects to hire a new leader by the end of that month with the new superintendent assuming duties by Aug. 1.

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