No matter where you stand on Mt. Diablo school district's decision to change superintendents -- this will be its third one in five years, by the way -- trustees deserve credit for letting every stakeholder have a voice in the selection process.

Input has been sought through interview sessions, public forums and an online survey (available at www.mdusd.org through June 21). Parents, teachers, support staff, students and community members have been asked about the qualities the next leader should possess.

Also: What are the district's biggest strengths? What are the foremost challenges it poses?

All of this information, carefully collated by executive search firm Leadership Associates, will be bundled in a tidy package and presented to school board members to digest before finalizing their description of the position being advertised statewide.

From what I gleaned during Tuesday afternoon's forum, the winning candidate must:

  • Be open-minded, accessible and a good listener.

  • Excel at team-building and collaboration;

  • Understand the necessity of transparency and communication.

  • Know the ins and outs of financial management.

  • Have leadership experience in a large district.

  • Embrace cultural and demographic diversity.

  • Value tradition but be adept at innovation.

  • Accept responsibility but know how to delegate.

    "The givens are honesty, integrity and trustworthiness," said consultant Sally Frazier of Leadership Associates. "People want someone who is authentic."

    In other words, the only shortcoming that will be tolerated is vulnerability to kryptonite.

    "It's going to be a complex task," Frazier said.

    No kidding.

    Among the revelations that surface in forums such as this are not only what stakeholders seek in a new leader but what they found lacking in the previous one. When an employee from the district's payroll department shared her vision for Superintendent Supreme, her checklist seemed to channel everything missing in the past.

    "I want a moral compass," she said, "a willingness to do what's right instead of fitting into a group. I want an open-door policy for employees frustrated by ineffective, hostile or complicit management.

    "Address the serious issues and purge those unable or unwilling to perform their job duties or exhibiting aberrant behavior.

    "Take seriously the deliberate misuse of funds, property, time or employee confidentiality usurped to further some personal agenda.

    "We want a superintendent who sees us as extensions of him or herself and treats abuse of his workers as abuse of himself personally."

    I don't know where former Superintendent Steven Lawrence was, but I imagine his ears were burning.

    Frazier took extensive notes throughout the meeting, as she had in other sessions. From those, she said, a job description will be composed and likely posted next week. Candidates are expected to by selected by the end of July and interviews to begin Aug. 5.

    She said her firm's 13 partners, who participate in recruiting, are former superintendents, so the process is in expert hands.

    Well, sure. Leadership Associates was the firm that found Lawrence.

    Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayareanewsgroup.com.