Thursday, February 22, 2018




Parents weigh in on Pine Tree superintendent search

By Glenn Evans
Feb. 7, 2018 at 12:04 a.m.

Joe Dan Lee of the Texas Association of School Boards speaks Tuesday with the Pine Tree food services staff about what they want to see in a superintendent.

The next superintendent at Pine Tree ISD will keep teachers in the district, pay heed to staff morale and bring discipline to a diverse student body, parents told the man leading the Pirates' search for a new captain Tuesday.

Those were pretty much the same issues Joe Dan Lee said he heard earlier in the day during informal discussions with food service and other campus staff.

Lee, with the Texas Association of School Boards, blamed daylong rains for discouraging teachers from attending a separate session at the end of the instructional day. And he said he plans to reschedule Q&A sessions with primary and secondary teachers to get their input on their next boss.

Six parents showed up Tuesday night for a community input session in the administration building. But Lee said their input matched what he'd heard during the day and what he's seeing on a public survey that has drawn more than 100 responses.

"We're getting good participation, but I would like more participation," he told the parents.

Lee, who was Pine Tree's superintendent from 1998 to 2004, said about 20 potential candidates had expressed an interest in Pine Tree to him at a recent superintendents conference.

"And out of those 20, there's five or six really good ones," he said.

Lee said he hopes trustees can select a superintendent finalist by April 21. Trustees could hire that person as soon as May 17, after waiting the mandatory 21 days after naming a finalist.

"And we hope they will be here, be able to (unofficially) report by May 1," he said. "We want to make sure that when they get down to one, that that's the person that they want to come in and lead this district."

Superintendent TJ Farler is retiring at the end of the school year.

"I feel like we need someone who will absolutely celebrate what we're really good at," parent Amy Jane Bonamy told Lee, adding the superintendent should not ignore what's wrong, either. "We're not going to get any better if we don't recognize what we're weak in."

Lee, who moved back to the area after serving as Georgetown ISD superintendent, replied that Pine Tree is attractive to applicants because there is not one overwhelming issue for an incoming superintendent to tackle.

Parent Raymond Russell asked Lee how the community can find out about a candidate's faith — something taboo in the interview process.

Lee said the school board association slips in that opportunity when telling candidates they'll give school trustees a short introduction, when they can say what they wish, at the start of formal interviews.

Dave Blazek asked if the candidates must be working superintendents.

"We say superintendent experience is preferred," Lee replied. "But we also put (in that) classroom teaching experience, campus administration, are desired. Classroom teaching experience is critical, so they can understand what goes on in those classrooms."

"I've got another one," parent James Bonamy said. "I think one of the strengths of the new superintendent will be understanding the 903 area code."

Lee applauded the remark.

"We want people that want to be here," he said. "We don't want you just because this job became available."

"We don't want to be a steppingstone," patron Rick James added.

"I have a question, and I'm really nervous about it," Amy Jane Bonamy began. "We have a large number of young men who do not have active fathers in their life. It can't all fall on coaches and male teachers."

"You shouldn't be afraid to say it," Lee replied. "You would be surprised how many comments I got on that survey that, 'We need a male superintendent.'"

James also cautioned against hiring a good fit "on paper" who doesn't fit the community. Lee sought to calm that fear, noting he and his peers in every state region talk about and recommend good fits for each other.

"If they've been successful where they are, they're going to be successful here — and we've got people that know that," Lee said. "We're very, very honest, and if (trustees) choose not to listen to us, that's on them. And this board won't do that."

Most of the parents asked how to add a name to the candidate list.

"He would be a good candidate," James said without naming his choice.

Lee said candidates can apply directly to his email at joe.lee@tasb.org. The tentative application deadline is March 14.

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