Park Hill superintendent search nearing completion

The Park Hill School District continues to narrow the field for the selection of its next superintendent.

At the Thursday, Nov. 12 regular meeting, board president Boon Lee reported meetings are being held with several candidates with the intent to soon narrow the field to three possibilities. The board met with School Exec Connect, the search firm hired to handle the process, earlier in the week to review applications.

“The board is extremely excited with the quality of candidates,” Lee said. “Our district attracted top talent from around the country. It is going to make our job extremely difficult.”

Committees made up of district staff, parents, students and interested community members will assist the board in the evaluation of the three finalists, scheduled for Dec. 1-3. The district is still accepting applicants to those committees online or through board secretary Opal Hibbs at (816) 359-4050.

The board intends to announce the new superintendent before winter break; he or she will begin work in July 2016, taking over for interim superintendent Dr. Jeanette Cowherd.

The board also heard the results of the district’s annual patron survey, conducted by Patron Insight. The telephone survey was administered to 400 randomly selected households, half in the Park Hill High School attendance area and half in the Park Hill South area. According to Patron Insight, the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Identified strengths included the perception that the district had strong curriculum and academics, good teachers and community support and good communication. Patrons also felt, however, that the district needed to better manage money, stress academics over athletics and reduce taxes.

The report showed little change in public perception on how the district communicates budget and finance information with 64 percent of respondents rating the district’s efforts to communicate such information as either excellent or good. Fewer patrons are seeing the district as pricey, however. A total of 37 percent of respondents said they thought the district’s operating levy was either a lot or a little higher than neighboring districts — marking the first time that total has been less than 40 percent of respondents.

Patrons were also asked for feedback on the four project ideas the district are considering to deal with population growth.

An additional middle school received the most support, with 66 percent of respondents believing that would help with overcrowding. Construction of another elementary school received 61 percent support and a support services facility received 55 percent support. Last on the list was construction of a high school center for use by both high schools for specialized curriculum, which received 42 percent support.

After a data breach last year that compromised the personal information of more than 10,000 district employees and students, the district is still working to ensure its data remains secure. The board heard an update on efforts to bolster cyber security.

A third-party consultant will be brought in to complete a risk assessment. Additionally, the state auditor’s office plans to review the district’s security next spring. In the meantime, staff is completing its own assessment in cooperation with the Missouri Research and Education Network’s cyber security team.