Looking for leadership

The most important issue Chilliwack school trustees will face wasn’t mentioned at an all-candidates forum Thursday evening.

The most important issue Chilliwack school trustees will face following the Nov. 19 election wasn’t mentioned at an all-candidates forum Thursday evening.

There was talk of student achievement, parent involvement, and stake-holder engagement.

But there was nothing specific about how the next board of education will attract – and hold – an exceptional superintendent of schools.

Ever since the last superintendent chose retirement over finishing out her five-year contract, the Chilliwack School District has been without a permanent CEO. Michael Audet, who came out of retirement to fill the post temporarily, signed on for only a year. The new board is expected to begin its search in January of 2012.

And a lot is riding on that search.

At its most basic, the superintendent is like the president of a large corporation. The management skills he or she brings to the job help shape the culture and workplace environment of that organization. Done right, that culture filters through the branch managers (principals and vice-principals) to the most important matrix – the employee/customer level (the classroom).

Teachers have the greatest impact on scholastic success. They inspire learning. If we think of a moment of intellectual awakening in our young school lives, odds are there was a teacher’s name attached to it.

But like any workplace, successful teachers are employees who are motivated, invigorated and appreciated by the management they’re responsible to.

And for managers to be successful they need to be well led.

Finding that leader is the challenge the new board faces.

But just as the new board will be interviewing potential candidates to fill this role, those candidates will be interviewing this board.

Will they find one that understands the nuances of effective board governance: to craft vision and create policies that others bring into action.

Or will they find a board that feels it is its role to question, second-guess and undermine the senior administrative team that has been assembled in hopes of delivering the kind of leadership that can be felt in a classroom?

Nov. 19 will tell us..

~ Greg Knill, Chilliwack Progress

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