The Community Advisory Committee, formed of a diverse group of stakeholders from throughout the community, conducted a survey with the intent of gathering honest, anonymous feedback from community members regarding the professional and personal qualities that they would like to see in the next superintendent of Natchitoches Parish Schools. The committee received 885 completed surveys representing an aggregate of responses reflective of our diverse community.
The feedback received was shared with the Natchitoches Parish School Board Thursday, Dec. 5 at the School Board meeting as part of the discussion surrounding the Superintendent search.
One of the most staggering responses was to Question 6 regarding salary.
More than 87 percent of respondents said that the new superintendent should have a compensation package similar to comparable districts. Looking at 10 districts with student enrollment between 4,000-6,000 students (Natchitoches has 5,763 students, so is at the upper end of this range), superintendent salaries ranged from $94,553 to $180,107.
Natchitoches Parish is ranked third highest enrollment out of 10 at 5,763 students and is ranked 8th highest superintendent pay out of 10 at $116,900. The average pay amongst those 10 districts is $135,600. The median pay is $137,000. Based on this data along with the community’s overwhelming request for comparable pay, the Community Advisory Committee recommended a salary range of $130,000-$145,000 at the School Board committee meeting Tuesday, Dec. 3, which according to Board Members was on par with the range discussed in their subcommittee responsible for researching salaries.
The Board ultimately voted Thursday, Dec. 5 for an advertised salary range of $120,000-$145,000.
Questions one and four focused on the community’s desired experience of our next superintendent, asking respondents to rank 12 items each from one to five, with one being not at all important and five being extremely important. The largest majority of respondents felt that experience managing personnel and experience in budgeting were the most important, with 91.06 percent and 90.36 percent respectively considering these items as either very or extremely important, while 83.79 percent of respondents felt that experience with under-performing schools was either very or extremely important.
Regarding candidates’ previous job roles, 77.78 percent thought experience as a principal was either very or extremely important, 73.41 percent thought experience as a district level administrator was either very or extremely important, and only 56.07 percent thought experience as a superintendent was very or extremely important. In fact, experience as a superintendent and experience in a Louisiana school system were by far the least important factors according to those surveyed.
From the results of this question, one could conclude that the Natchitoches community cares the most that their next superintendent have a proven track record with effectively leading and communicating with faculty and staff, managing a complex budget, and implementing focused growth of underperforming schools as either a principal or a district level administrator, and the community cares the least that this person has served as a superintendent of a district in the state of Louisiana.
Question seven asked respondents to select up to three strengths of our school system. The top three choices were the relationship with Northwestern State University (48.57 percent), excellent teachers and staff (46.54 percent), and a supportive community (31.86 percent). The bottom three choices were the reputation of the district (2.63 percent), financial management (5.85 percent) and effective leadership (9.43 percent).
It is interesting to note that of the 885 people who completed the survey, 47 (5.3 percent) respondents skipped this question all together. In Question eight, respondents were asked what the most important issues or concerns are facing our school system in the next five years, and could select up to three of ten choices. At 67.35 percent, the top response was academic growth of all students, followed closely by personnel issues/hiring and retaining high quality staff at 60.54 percent. There was a significant difference between the second and third highest response; dropping nearly 18 points was funding at 42.63 percent.
Regarding personal characteristics of the next superintendent, respondents’ top responses were integrity (57.29 percent), commitment to the community (42.37 percent) and team builder (40.23 percent). The three most important leadership skills selected were working with diverse groups of people (52.49 percent), problem solving (52.26 percent), and oral communication (39.37%), followed closely by strategic thinking (34.62 percent).
In looking at all of these results, it is important to note certain demographics of the respondents. 94.06 percent live in Natchitoches Parish. 48.63 percent have children currently enrolled in our district. 47.37 percent have children who once attended a Natchitoches parish school. 45.21 percent are owners or employees of a Natchitoches parish business, and 10.05 percent are retired. 19.63 percent (172 people) are currently employed by the Natchitoches Parish School Board office.
The Community Advisory Committee would like to thank those who participated in the community survey, as well as the members of the School Board for taking the community’s desires into consideration.