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Focus-group turnout is sparse
By Jonathan J. Cooper

April 1, 2006

Despite a year of intense discussion and debate about the future direction of the Kyrene School District, focus groups scheduled to solicit community input into the district’s next superintendent were sparsely attended.

The attendance at the Kyrene focus groups was lower than that at similar districts in parallel situations, said Lee Pasquarella of the Bellevue, Wash.,-based Cascade Consulting Group, a firm hired by the Governing Board to assist in the search for a superintendent to replace the departing Maria Menconi.

“It was surprising how few people attended the focus groups,” said Karin Crider, Kyrene’s director of federal and community programs.

“We set up three days of focus groups with several opportunities for various stakeholder groups and had hoped to have a better turn out.”

Neither Crider nor Pasquarella could speculate about the reason for the low interest.

“Hopefully we will have more involvement later in the process,” Crider said.

Nineteen focus groups were scheduled March 22, 23 and 24 and were separately targeted toward parents, community members, teachers, administrators, support staff and business leaders.

Pasquarella took notes about the stakeholders’ comments and said he will compile those into a recruitment brochure that will be sent to prospective candidates. The firm will then narrow the field of applicants and advance several names to the Governing Board, which will use the focus group information to identify which characteristics to look for when interviewing the candidates.

The two parents and one community member who attended one Friday afternoon focus group spoke freely of their ideas, thoughts and concerns.

They named the ability to communicate well with both internal staff and external interests as a key characteristic of a future superintendent, saying they felt as if they never knew what was going on in the district unless a significant controversy arose.

They also asked for a superintendent who can build a strong rapport and trust with the parents and community, saying a culture of trust will go a long way to smooth over relations between the district and its parents and teachers.

Some of the focus group attendees wanted a candidate who will get involved with the local communities Kyrene serves.

Some also asked for greater “cultural competence” among the district staff and greater diversity among the teachers.

They all agreed that the new superintendent must have a strong foundation and understanding in both the business and education sides of running a school district, and preferred a candidate with experience in curriculum instruction.

Speaking after the focus group, Wendy Hansen, a former Kyrene employee and current district resident, said she would like to see a candidate who is a “true visionary.”

“Someone with an amazing sense of strategy who is able to take into consideration children first, recognize the teachers, recognize the kind of recognition that the teachers deserve,” she described.

“This is an outstanding district.  I’d like to make sure that the district continues to earn the reputation that it has, and I think only a strategist, only a visionary, will be able to bring that for us.”


































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