Education

Education

BELTON — Community members want the next Belton schools superintendent to be experienced with multiple high schools and growing districts while also having balanced professional and personal lives.

David Thompson and Mike Moses — the two consultants hunting for Belton Independent School District’s next superintendent — briefed the school board Thursday on three focus group meetings they had with residents.

More than 60 people participated in the closed-door meetings Wednesday and Thursday. The school board appointed the participants.

Roughly 15 people have applied to succeed former Superintendent Susan Kincannon, who now leads Waco ISD. The application period closes Dec. 2. The goal is to have a new superintendent in place by mid to late March.

Thompson, a lawyer, and Moses, a former Texas education commissioner, asked the participants four questions: Why Belton ISD? What are the district’s challenges? What professional qualities should the new superintendent have? And what personal attributes should that person have?

“Most of this is not going to surprise you — these are people you know and who are in your community,” Moses said.

The groups, Thompson said, overwhelmingly said growth was a challenge and strength of the district.

“As we grow, how do we not lose that hometown feel?” Thompson said, reading from a legal notepad filled with notes from the focus group meetings.

Participants were concerned about Belton ISD’s upcoming switch from a single high school district to a two high school district. Lake Belton High School — Belton ISD’s second comprehensive high school — opens next fall.

Community members viewed that as a positive, but admitted it will change the district.

“That was identified as a challenge,” Thompson said.

Moses said focus group participants do not want Belton’s next superintendent to be a job jumper. They want someone who will stay in Belton ISD and focus on education and students, he said.

The groups said they preferred candidates who had a doctorate degree, but it was not a deal breaker, Thompson said. The community, he added, expects the new superintendent to be someone who pursues professional growth.

Thompson said the focus groups did not want a non-educator as superintendent.

“Several people observed throughout the day that the school district serves more than the city of Belton,” Thompson said, referring to Belton ISD including its namesake city, West Temple, Morgan’s Point Resort and parts of unincorporated Bell County.

The participants, the lawyer explained, want the district’s next superintendent to coordinate with all of the entities inside Belton ISD. They said, Thompson added, that was important — and important to do it well.

Five city of Belton officials participated in the focus groups. No city of Temple officials were appointed by the school board.

The groups said they wanted the new superintendent to be a good listener and someone who can build upon the district’s success and team build.

They also want Belton ISD’s next leader to be approachable and visible in the community, Thompson said.

“Not someone who sits in their office, but leads out in front and is out in the community,” he said. “Someone who is truly committed and involved in the larger community and activities in the district.”

Belton ISD residents who did not participate in the focus group process will be able to give their opinion on the superintendent search. The district will have a survey on its website Friday through Nov. 15.