Lake Forest to work with UD in superintendent search

FELTON — After voting against renewing the contract of its superintendent, the Lake Forest school board will search for a successor with the assistance of Delaware Academy of School Leadership, of the University of Delaware.

DASL is a professional development, policy and research center in UD’s College of Education and Human Development.

The Lake Forest school board voted 4-1 in December that it would not renew the contract of Superintendent Brenda Wynder. Dr. Wynder’s contract ends in June 2020.

“I think what we bring is a real knowledge of Delaware policy. We know Delaware K-12 schools and we know them well because we work in them every day,” said Jackie Wilson, director of DASL.

The board will publicly vote to work with DASL on Thursday, but the announcement of the partnership came Tuesday afternoon. The search will cost $14,625, said Earle Dempsey, school board president.

Dr. Wilson said Mr. Dempsey reached out to her after looking at different options for the search.

“We study school leadership; we know the research around what districts should be looking for in a superintendent who is an instructional leader,” she said.

The work will begin next month, with officials hoping that the initial review of applicants will begin in mid-April and that a finalist will be chosen at the end of May or by early June.

Mr. Dempsey said the search will solicit applicants from in and out of the state.

“It would be fantastic for us to find our next great leader here in Delaware, coming from within Delaware education, but we don’t want to limit ourselves to that,” he said. “We feel that someone within the region might be a good fit as well — being Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, as an example.”

DASL will assist in advertising the position, corresponding and screening candidates, coordinating and facilitating interviews by the board, completing background checks on the final candidate and assisting in the negotiation of the contract with the finalist.

This will be DASL’s first time facilitating a superintendent search in the entirety of the process, Dr. Wilson said.

She said DASL has, in the past, provided human resource offices with research on leadership qualities for superintendents. She added that DASL is “comfortable in this process.”

Mark Holodick, former superintendent of the Brandywine School District who now works with DASL, will also be involved in the search, Dr. Wilson said, and brings experience as a superintendent.

Mr. Dempsey said the board was looking forward to working with Dr. Holodick.

“With Mark’s great reputation of having been such a successful district leader in this state, we’re just ecstatic about that opportunity of working with him, and [DASL] and being supported by University of Delaware,” he said. “It’s just really, for us, the whole package.”

Community and staff input will also factor in to the search, Mr. Dempsey said. He said a survey is being crafted, which will be sent out to the public.

“We want to solicit feedback from them as to what they feel is important for the next stage of our district, what this leader should encompass, what the board should be looking for specifically in this leader,” he said. “We want the community and the staff to be involved. We want them to feel included.”

Two stakeholder groups, one of community and one of staff, will be created and will be involved in the interview process, he said.

“One stage of the interview will be the candidates meeting with and, frankly, being interviewed by, each of those stakeholder groups, as well as separately by the board,” he said.

DASL plans to be a continued resource after the search. The academy already provides professional development for educators throughout the state, and Dr. Wilson hopes it can continue to support the future Lake Forest superintendent.

“UD has so many resources, and we have access to those resources. We’re an – institution. We care about Delaware schools,” Dr. Wilson said. “We care about the educators that work in the state and making sure we give them support to make them successful. We have vested interest in the quality of schools and success of leaders.”