The superintendent of Middletown City Schools was interviewed live online Thursday as part of his finalist candidacy for the superintendent’s job for Cincinnati Public Schools.
It was a highly public interviewing process — rarely employed in Ohio — that saw Middletown’s Marlon Styles Jr. and two other finalists answer questions from Cincinnati high school students Thursday afternoon and then city school parents and residents in the evening.
The two online sessions, broadcast from CPS’ central office, were available for public viewing and saw each job candidate live and fielding questions for about 90 minutes total.
“It has been rigorous,” Styles confessed to the panel of about a dozen CPS high school students who took turns asking each candidate questions.
It was also rare, said Rick Lewis, executive director and CEO of the Ohio School Boards Association.
“Including outside groups such as parents, community representatives and students in a first round of interviews would be highly unusual,” Lewis said Thursday.
“A panel interview in public is much less common, but an admirable attempt at inclusion,” he said.
But, “in the end, the selection can’t be made by town meeting.”
Under Ohio law, each public school district’s governing board hires the superintendent and the board’s interviews are almost always done under private, executive session provisions allowed by the state for hiring.
Lewis said, “it can be very helpful to get the feedback and perspective of a larger group. But keep in mind, in some states like Florida … all interviews must be conducted in public.”
Also competing for the job are Tianay Amat, Cincinnati Schools’ deputy superintendent and currently its interim leader and Iranetta Wright, deputy superintendent for the Detroit Public Schools.
A final hiring decision is scheduled for early March, said CPS officials.
Styles repeatedly told participants in both of Thursday’s interview forums his leadership style is one of personal relationships and energetic reform designed to enhance “equity” and “inclusion” for all students.
“I’m a process driven person … and I believe in a good old-fashioned word and that is communication. And district leadership needs to stand right along building leaders in decision making.”
Styles, who is the first, full-time African American superintendent in Middletown Schools’ history, said he is also an advocate for expanding the roles of black male educators and school administrators in public education.
Styles cited the importance of “culture” in a school district and noted his work — including teacher professional development reforms — in Middletown Schools since being hired in 2017.
“At the Middletown City Schools District we are taking our staff through a series of professional (development) learning as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion and that centers around a culture of belief that we value,” he said.