The Beaufort County school board is about to take up its most important task -- choosing a new superintendent.
Advice on how to go about picking a new school district leader and the qualifications to focus on will not be hard to find. Our first piece of advice is to stick to the timetable of choosing a replacement next spring.
Redistricting has resulted in 10 of 11 school board seats up for election in November. Only two of the 10 incumbents face no ballot opposition, and three others did not file to run again.
Hiring a new superintendent is a job for the next school board, which will be seated in January.
This shouldn't cause disruptions in district operations. Outgoing superintendent Valerie Truesdale is to leave the district Oct. 1. The district's head of human resources, Jackie Rosswurm, has been named interim superintendent.
The one school board member not up for election this fall, Bill Evans of Lady's Island, has been named co-chairman of the superintendent selection committee. Laura Bush of Bluffton and Earl Campbell, who have no ballot opponent, also have been appointed, as well as outgoing board member George Wilson of Sun City Hilton Head. Bush is the other co-chairman. That's a good mix.
Our next piece of advice is to go for substance, not splash, when evaluating job candidates. We need someone focused on educating children, not bolstering a resumè with the latest education trend or gimmick.
In other words, try to keep politics out of what can be a very political job. The best candidate first and foremost will be honest -- with the board and the community. The focus shouldn't be on spin, but on the students. It should be on the job the students are doing, not saving the superintendent's job.
The ideal candidate will know how to identify and implement solid, proven methods to improve student performance and stick with them. Truesdale's five-year tenure has been marked by a lot of changes at the national and state levels in how we assess performance. Tests have changed; grading methods have changed.
At the local level, we've changed school calendars, required uniforms, gone back and forth on grade floors and rejiggered how to deal with disciplinary problems. Will we know five years from now whether it was a good idea to put iPads into the hands of middle and high school students or will we have moved on to the next thing?
We look back to our advice in 2007 to Truesdale as she started her job. It still reflects the characteristics and skills we'd like to see in the next superintendent:
And most important of all, put children -- not career -- first.