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A small but vocal audience gave their opinion on what the Redmond School District should be looking for in its next leader at a recent forum.

The forum sought input on a replacement for Superintendent Mike McIntosh, who is retiring at the end of the 2019-20 school year after more than two decades with the district, the last seven as superintendent. Consultant Hank Harris, president of Washington, D.C., search firm Human Capital Enterprises, questioned the audience about three topics — what they think makes Redmond great, what issues should go in the new superintendent’s “inbox” and what top qualities they are looking for in the superintendent.

“There’s candidates that could be really great superintendents for a neighboring district, but maybe not great superintendents for Redmond,” Harris said. “We want to make sure we get the one who’s great for Redmond. And that person’s going to bring their own array of great qualities.”

The audience of about a dozen people, mostly made up of district parents, said strong-points of the district include the inclusion of groups like FFA and 4-H, as well as the Redmond Early Learning Center, which brings kindergarten and preschool students from across the city under one roof.

More people spoke out when it came to addressing the issues facing the district. Several said they would like to see better communication from the district, to parents and even between schools, because they are often forced to choose between events different kids are involved with.

Some blamed the light attendance at the forum on the district not getting word out, saying the event should have been advertised in a weekly email newsletter and on reader boards in front of each school. While parents insisted they weren’t notified, district spokeswoman Kelly Jenkins said two emails about the forum were sent out to parents on a mailing list of more than 8,000 addresses.

Harris added that low attendance is typical for superintendent hiring forums, no matter how many people are notified.

A mother wanted to see improvement in special needs classes, saying many parents have to pull their kids out of school.

Other comments included a wish to find someone like McIntosh, who grew up in Redmond, as opposed to a superintendent that will treat the district like it were Bend, while others criticized a “good ol’ boys club” in town.

Another speaker suggested that, despite having state high school principal of the year Lee Loving, Ridgeview High is often overlooked compared to Redmond High, which played host to the forum.

Johnny Corbin, a former school board member who lost his bid for reelection earlier this year, went over several themes of his campaign when he spoke, but told Harris that dealing with the state’s Public Employees Retirement System was the most crucial issue facing the district.

Among the qualities people were looking for in the superintendent were a “family man” with children in the district, a “stand-up superintendent,” and someone thoughtful about the way they enact change in the district.

Harris’ visit to Redmond also included meetings with staff and other stakeholders. He plans to talk with the board in mid-November about what the community is looking for in a superintendent. Once the board gives him instructions on what to look for, Harris said he will start finding candidates by mid-December, though he is already hearing from some.

“Redmond’s a really great place, and people have already been emailing me saying, ‘I hear Redmond is going to be hiring, can we talk about it?’ ” Harris said. “Yes, we can talk about it, but I will know a lot more two or three or four weeks from now than I know right now. Know that about your community, Central Oregon is a very special place and Redmond is a very special place.”

Harris expects the board to be able to land on a group of “top finalists” by late February or early March and make a hire soon after, he said. The new person would start after McIntosh retires June 30.

Residents can give their opinion on what they are looking for in a superintendent in a poll on the district’s website through Nov. 12.

School board member Rick Bailey, one of two members in attendance, along with Tim Carpenter, said after the meeting that there will likely be a chance for the public to hear from the finalists before a superintendent is chosen.

“We feel the community has a right and an expectation to know who we’re considering,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

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