The consultants hired to help Fort Wayne Community Schools find a new superintendent added only a few voices to the conversation Tuesday night.
About a dozen people sat in South Side High School's cafeteria as representatives from Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates sought input about the district's strengths, its challenges and the qualities the community wants in Superintendent Wendy Robinson's successor.
The meeting was the first of three that will let the public contribute to the superintendent search. The other meetings are at 1 p.m. today at the Family and Community Engagement Center, 230 E. Douglas Ave., and 6 p.m. Thursday at Northrop High School, 7001 Coldwater Road.
This is “really the time when people need to speak up,” FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.
Feedback from the meetings and an online survey will be used to develop a community and leadership profile of the desired candidate. That will be shared with the school board Dec. 16.
“What kind of a leader is the community looking for?” Stockman said.
She described the search as a “momentous occasion” given Robinson will retire after 17 years as superintendent.
Jim Morse, a consultant leading Tuesday's session, said his firm does not start with a stable of candidates to bring to Fort Wayne.
“We start from scratch,” he said, adding much of his work involves recruitment.
Morse acknowledged that busy family schedules might have contributed to the low turnout Tuesday. He noted that more than 600 people had completed the online survey as of last week. The survey deadline was Friday, but Morse said it might still be possible to participate. Go to https://fortwayneschools.org/superintendent-search to try.
The small, but vocal, group at South Side on Tuesday said they want the next superintendent to be approachable and visible, authentic, an advocate for teachers, a team builder and a visionary. One person supported hiring internally while another argued for someone new to FWCS.
Whoever is hired will face challenges stemming from the state Legislature and from serving a population that includes homeless students and children experiencing trauma, attendees said.
There is also challenge in following Robinson's legacy.
“Whoever comes into this job has big shoes or high heels to fill,” one man said, adding the change could be difficult for some staff members. “Loyalists don't like a new commander in chief.”
Attendee Brian Stouder, who advocated for a Fort Wayne candidate, considers Robinson a model superintendent.
“I love Dr. Robinson,” he said. “If we could have another one like her, I'm happy.”