Ann Arbor superintendent hopefuls present 90-day plans to board, community
Ann Arbor Public Schools superintendent hopefuls Brian Osborne and Jeanice Kerr Swift each have one final shot to impress the community and school board Tuesday and Wednesday.
Included in the days' events will be a second round of questioning from the board and a presentation before trustees and the public on the finalists' 90-day plans, which they would carry out during their first three months if selected as the next superintendent.
There also will be an opportunity for community members and the general public to ask questions of the candidates both days from 7-8:30 p.m. at Skyline High School, 2552 N. Maple Rd.
The Ann Arbor Board of Education is slated to select the district's next leader on Friday. Former Superintendent Patricia Green retired from AAPS July 9 after two years with the district.
Swift, of Colorado, and Osborne, of New Jersey, were chosen, along with four other semifinalists, from an initial pool of 61 applicants. The six semifinalists were interviewed on July 8 and 9, after which the board named Swift and Osborne to advance to the next stage of consideration.
Swift will tour the district and visit with key leaders on Tuesday, while Osborne will do the same on Wednesday. The schedule will be the same both days, with the public invited to attend two portions of the day-long events: the final presentations and board interviews from 1:15 to 2:45 p.m. at Skyline, during which the finalists will share their 90-day entry plans, and Q-&-A sessions from 7 to 8:30 p.m., during which community members can ask the candidates any questions they may have.
Board President Deb Mexicotte said a 90-day plan is a very typical thing for a superintendent candidate to develop when vying for a leadership position in a new district, and a required thing to create when offered the job and preparing to take the reins in that district.
Mexicotte said the board generally has received 90-day plans without asking from its finalists and even many semifinalists in previous searches; however, the board has not required the candidates in the past to present them publicly. During the superintendent search that resulted in the board hiring Todd Roberts, the superintendent prior to Green, the board had the finalists give a presentation to trustees and the community at a public meeting, but the presentation could be on a topic of their choosing, showing how they use data to operate the district and improve the education of children, Mexicotte said.
This time around, the board thought it prudent to have the finalists present their 90-day action plans to communicate thoroughly with the board and the community how he or she would "come into the district, build confidence, learn what (he or she) needed to learn and get to tackling some of the key areas" of need at AAPS, Mexicotte said. She added by presenting the plans publicly, stakeholders will be able to see and compare the leadership and communication styles of the two finalists.
Following the presentations, the Board of Education will engage in a second interview with the candidates that Mexicotte described as more individualized.
In the semifinalist stage, the candidates were asked a core set of 20 identical questions that emphasized visibility, communication, redistricting, finances and making tough decisions. In the finalist stage, the questions will be targeted toward Swift and Osborne's unique traits, experiences, philosophies and leadership styles, and the format will be less formal, Mexicotte said, adding trustees can ask questions about topics dear to them as well.
She described the second-round interviews as being an opportunity to get down to the "nitty gritty," to figure out what sets these two candidates apart and to explore the candidates' "fit" with the district. Topics that could be discussed include special education, transportation, human resources or personnel management, magnet programs or alternative schools, Mexicotte said.
"I think we are really, really lucky to have these two candidates in our final pool," she said. "Both are accomplished leaders and, in my opinion, both can do the job and both would be assets to our district...
"Now it's about finding the mutual fit we’re looking for. If both fit really well but maybe in different ways, it will be about weighing the better fit and weighing what we want and need, given the challenges facing our district right now and in the foreseeable future."
The evening community Q-&-A session will be facilitated by the board and the public will be encouraged to ask questions of the candidates. Each finalists also will be permitted a few minutes at the start of their session to introduce themselves to the audience and highlight a few points about who they are, why they want to be in Ann Arbor or their experiences.
Mexicotte said it will be long days for Swift and Osborne, days packed with meeting many new faces and answering many questions.
"I'm expecting really informative, action-packed fun days," she said. "... I hope it's a fun day for them. ... Interacting with the community in these kinds of settings should be fun and I think the right candidate for our district will think it's a fun process on some level. It's serious business, but I do think it's fun for them to see some of our schools and meet with the great people in our community."
Swift and Osborne will begin their respective days by having breakfast with a sub-quorum group of board members. Then Mexicotte will take them on tours of the district, stopping by several schools and meeting with some staff members and union representation from the various collective bargaining units, Mexicotte said.
Another small group of board members will have the opportunity to meet up with the candidates for coffee around 11, followed by lunch with the core members of the central administration team.
Then the 1:15 p.m. public meeting will take place, at which the finalists will present their 90-day plans to the board and answer questions. The meeting will be followed by another meeting with people from "all walks of our stakeholder groups," Mexicotte said, including parents, business owners, elected officials, community center leaders, philanthropic leaders, partners from the University of Michigan and others.
AnnArbor.com will be live blogging from both the 1:15 p.m. meeting and the 7 p.m. community Q-&-A. Check back closer to the meeting start times to catch the live blog.