Cheryl Ryan, right, a consultant with the Ohio School Board Association, answers questions Wednesday night at the Performing Arts Center.

J.D. Pooley | Sentinel-Tribune

Parents and community members on Wednesday got the opportunity to voice what they’d like to see from the next Bowling Green City Schools’ superintendent.

A focus group, moderated by Cheryl Ryan, a consultant with the Ohio School Board Association, was held at the Performing Arts Center auditorium.

“This is a really important decision,” said Ryan of choosing a superintendent. “It’s a hard job, superintendent. … I can’t think of a more difficult job in public education. And, particularly in the past several years, since the beginning of the pandemic, the last couple election cycles, it’s really tough.”

VIDEO: Focus on new BG superintendent – Community members meet with state consultant

Current superintendent Francis Scruci announced in January that he would retire effective July 31. Scruci was hired in 2015, replacing Ann McVey, and was previously the superintendent of the Gahanna-Jefferson City School in Franklin County.

Ryan said that Wednesday evening’s session with parents and community members was the fifth and final session held that day with a variety of stakeholders in the community. The session, which lasted nearly an hour, drew approximately 60 attendees by its 6 p.m. start time.

During the session, participants offered their thoughts on different prompts from Ryan; she recorded the responses on a series of large pieces of flip-chart paper.

Ryan said that she will be transcribing the responses in a report for the board of education, and that she will utilize the material in the efforts to recruit candidates for the superintendent position, and that the board will use it in evaluating the candidates.

Ryan began by asking the attendees what they wanted a superintendent to be able to do.

Responses included bridging the gap between the rural and urban portions of the community; communicating effectively, concisely, consistently and transparently; being able to collaborate; supporting teachers and staff; being a creative problem-solver; partnering with the community, the university, the chamber of commerce and other organizations to provide opportunities for students; recognizing the value of public education as a tool for protecting democracy; being open to constructive criticism; and appreciating family values and being willing to partner with local churches to support children in need.

Ryan asked about the challenges in the district.

Responses included the need to pass levies; being able to educate the public about challenges; building trust; being able to boost morale and inspire change; working on school transportation options; being able to listen and be decisive once a decision needs to be made; avoid micromanaging; being someone teachers can support and who prioritizes what they need, and who is able to fairly implement policies negotiated with teachers and staff; someone who fights for all kids in the district, and who stays on top of the current best educational practices.

One point of discussion centered on what the board would do if, in the first round of candidates, they didn’t feel they’d found “the one.”

One respondent said that in that case, they would rather the board would wait until they could get a better pool of candidates to make a decision.

“My job is to read the room when I’m with the board, and I hope they will be excited about a few of these candidates,” Ryan said.

“You have my 100% word,” Ryan said, “that if your board isn’t excited about a finalist,” or a finalist isn’t excited about coming to Bowling Green, “I’d say look at an interim.”

She said that, as of Wednesday morning, there are seven applicants for the position, but that “I think, in the end, there will be 15 to 20” applicants.

One respondent said they want the next superintendent to be in the district long-term, and not use Bowling Green as a stepping stone in their career, or a brief stopover before retirement.

Ryan said that on average statewide, superintendents stay with a district for 4.6 years. However, she said that OSBA placements average 6.2 years.

“I hope that we get somebody that wants to be here 12 to 15 years and has a board and community that wants them here for 12 to 15 years,” Ryan said.

Members of BG’s school board did not attend Wednesday’s session. They were scheduled to meet to discuss requests for qualifications for an architect regarding a new high school building. Ryan said that she held a similar session with the board when the process began.