OWENSBORO, Ky. (5/1/13) – Three candidates for the position of Owensboro Public Schools Superintendent were given the chance to meet the community and answer a series of questions Tuesday night in one of the final steps of the selection process.
The three candidates – Nick Brake, Mark Owens, and Rob Clayton – addressed a sizeable crowd at the OPS district office. Only one candidate was allowed in the room at a time so that they couldn’t hear each other’s answers. All three candidates were asked the same series of questions, many of which the moderator of the event said were provided by members of the community ahead of time.
Brake, who spoke first, told the audience his experience and professional relationships he has built at every level would be vital to developing a curriculum for careers in skilled labor, when asked how he would address the growing need to fill positions as more people retire from the workforce.
“I’m your man here,” he said. “I have a lot of experience… and have developed key relationships at the local, state, and national levels.”
He said that development of a skilled labor curriculum would need to be developed in conjunction with the various industries and universities to offer something that prepares students.
“It’s not about lowering standards,” he said, adding that such a curriculum would need to be a “rigorous academics” program covering multiple industries, such as manufacturing, energy, and banking.
In his answers, Brake stressed the importance for a superintendent to be “teacher oriented,” a quality he said he can bring to the table if hired. He noted that he is currently teaching a course at Western Kentucky University and intends to continue teaching for as long as he is able. He also pointed to his past experiences in teaching as examples of how he would be an effective superintendent. He said programs he helped developed while working for the Daviess County School District are still in place.
Owens was next to address the audience. When asked how he would develop the district’s curriculum in its schools, he said his focus would be on encouraging communication between them.
“You would assume it’s a given that all schools are talking to one another, but they’re not,” Owens said. “We have to establish a culture… where we get everyone working in the same direction. That’s a tough thing to do.
Owens added that if hired, he would have a policy of “no tolerance for negativity.” When asked what he would do in his first 90 days, he said he would spend most of that time meeting with various teacher, parent, and community groups before making any major changes in the way the district does things.
“I’ll listen, but I’ll act boldly in the first 90 days,” he said.
Clayton, the only candidate not living in Daviess County, said his priority would be to “establish positive relationships” with students to help them succeed. He said he has three priorities he would operate under if hired as the superintendent: safety including social and emotional as well as physical; the need for all students to learn; and providing college and career-ready opportunities.
He also said developing strong lines of communication among the various local groups will be a focus for him.
“I’ll want to know from our community what we need,” he said.
All three candidates were asked their thoughts on how best to utilize a piece of property purchased bout a year ago from Texas Gas, and all three joked about the question before answering.
“This is the question I was advised to punt on,” Clayton said jokingly before telling the audience that such a decision would need to be made carefully after ample time was spent to “gather facts” about the property.
Brake said while the property could provide a great opportunity, the financial challenges facing the district would have to be considered in any decision.
“The facilities are second in my mind to student achievement,” Brake said. “We’re challenged here the way the district is funded.”
Owens said he would reconvene the district’s Local Planning Commission to assess the property, and determine the best way to serve students.
“We need to figure out how to best serve our kids – where do we want our fifth graders to be?” he said.
Although a specific date to decide whom to hire hasn’t been announced, a tentative date for selecting a candidate has been set for May 7, with duties to begin July 1. The new superintendent will succeed Larry Vick, who is retiring.
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