Union names Howard of Independence next superintendent

Finalists included David Hill, John Howard, and Mark Taylor

John Howard.

This story first appeared as an online story on Tuesday, April 5, and has been updated. At press time, Union’s next superintendent had not yet been named. Learn more about the new superintendent John Howard in next week’s Telegraph.

The Union Community School District Board of Education announced just before noon on Thursday, April 7, the names of the three finalists in its search for the district’s next superintendent.

The finalists are David Hill, John Howard, and Mark Taylor.

The search began in late-February following the news that current Union superintendent Travis Fleshner would be taking a job as superintendent of Aplington-Parkersburg Community School District starting in July.

David Hill is the superintendent of neighboring North Tama County Community School District where he recently led the district through a comprehensive facility study and development of a long-term facility master plan. Prior to North Tama, Hill was a PK-5 Principal at Union Community School District. Hill began his career in education as an ag teacher at Benton Community School District.

David Hill.

John Howard is the 7-12 Principal at Independence Community School District where he has done substantive work in providing mental health counseling within the school day. Howard previously served as a principal and curriculum director at Saint Edmond Catholic Schools in Fort Dodge.

Mark Taylor is the principal at North Hill Elementary School at Burlington Community School District where he is also the Title I director and autism committee chair, as well as a participant on District SIAC, teacher leadership, and professional development committees for multiple elementary buildings. Taylor previously spent 10 years in vocal and instrumental music education.

Formal interviews and community/district tours were conducted on Monday, April 11. The day consisted of a board interview as well as interviews with two mixed interview teams composed of teachers, support staff, students, parents, and community members

Following the last interview on April 11, the board entered into closed session to review input data from all interviews.

Announcement of the next superintendent was tentatively scheduled to be made public on Wednesday, April 13, or Thursday, April 14, according to a district press release.

Mark Taylor. -Photo courtesy Burlington Municipal Band

Union’s board of education has been aided in their search by Grundmeyer Leader Services, a Huxley-based consulting firm the board contracted with during its February 21 meeting.

Monday, April 4 board meeting

As part of Union Community School District’s search for a new superintendent, members of the school board were provided with an overview of the recently completed stakeholder survey as well as an introduction to the candidate pool by representatives from Grundmeyer Leader Services during an April 4 board meeting.

It was elbow-to-elbow around the conference room tables in the district office board room during the meeting with all board members present as well as Grundmeyer consultants Kevin Fiene, Roger Wilcox, and Shanlee McNally who began the public portion of their presentation with the survey results.

The district received 206 responses to the stakeholder survey which closed on March 13 and was conducted by Grundmeyer. Responses came from mostly those who self-identified as parents but also included 47 self-identified teachers.

Survey respondents were asked to identify points of pride as well as challenges or areas for improvement for the district.

Points of pride listed by survey respondents included Union’s small class sizes, a skilled and caring faculty/staff, strong community support, a focus on student achievement, and opportunities for students.

Current challenges identified by survey respondents included retaining staff, a lack of mental health resources, bullying, communication, and lack of strong leadership.

The survey also asked respondents to choose from a list what they consider to be the top three most important professional as well as personal qualities/qualifications in a superintendent.

The number one professional quality selected by those who completed Union’s survey was ‘recruits, hires, supports, develops and retains effective staff’ – garnering 49 percent; number two was ‘promotes a community of care and support for students’ – garnering 39 percent; number three was ‘builds school and community relations’ – garnering 33 percent.

The number one personal qualification was ‘is approachable, accessible and welcoming’ – garnering 65 percent; number two was ‘demonstrates ethics and integrity’ – garnering 45 percent; number three was ‘follows through on tasks and responsibilities’ – garnering 40 percent.

Finally, survey respondents were given the chance to provide advice for the next Union superintendent. One such comment was shared with the board during the public portion of Grundmeyer’s presentation.

“We have a wonderful Knight community of teachers and support staff who deeply care about the success and wellbeing of our students,” the survey comment began. “We need to do all we can to maintain those quality, caring individuals to rebuild the strong Union reputation we have prided ourselves with in the past.”

Candidate pool

The consultants then turned to the candidate pool for superintendent – 17 individuals submitted applications for the position and all but one were in-state candidates. The consultants shared that the pool was “not very diverse.”

The vast majority of the candidates are male – all but two identifying as such – and almost all identified as white.

Two of the candidates have a doctorate as their highest degree attained while two listed a Master’s as their highest degree attained.

Previously, the board chose to move the superintendent hiring process up by a week which led to the elimination of formal screener interviews. Following the public presentation on April 4, the board entered into closed session with the consultants to review the candidate pool and work to narrow the pool to at least three or four finalists which were subsequently made public on Thursday, April 7, as reported earlier in this story.