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Parents give input on principal search

February 08, 2012 - A small, but vocal group of Lake Orion parents met with Larry Lobert, assistant superintendent of human resources for the school district, on February 2 to discuss what they would like to see in the new high school principal.

A number of people have held the position on a permanent or interim basis over the past several years. Sophia Lafayette, left the job late last year to take another position within the district. Tom Tobe is the interim principal.

Students, teachers and parents alike are hoping the search, which began late last month with the official posting of the position, will result in the hiring of not only the best person for the job, but someone who wants to do it for an extended period.

"I think this is should be considered a destination job," Lobert said. "If the search is done right, our choice will have obvious motivations to be here a while."

High school PTO President Chris Barnett added, "This is a desirable district in the state. We should demand the best candidates."

In explaining the search process, Lobert noted the district is "ahead of the game" versus other schools. He said to the best of his knowledge Lake Orion is the only large district in the state currently searching for a high school principal.

"We ought to be able to find quality candidates over the 3-4 month period or we're doing something wrong," he said. "If we're not positive on a hire, we won't make an offer and extend the search."

Applications for the principal position are being accepted through March 9. Administrators plan to screen and select finalists by March 16, with interviews by a pre-selected committee to be completed by April 13. The plan is to conduct final interviews with the school board and others by April 20, with an offer to the best candidate soon after.

The school district has already met with the high school staff to secure their input on what they would like to see in the next principal. (Student input also will be solicited soon.) Lobert said teachers strongly reiterated they not only want someone with significant experience working at a large high school, but also someone with strong leadership and management skills.

He concurred with these needs, noting the district will seriously consider current high school assistant principals who have worked with large high school student populations, as well as current principals.

During last week's meeting, the parents agreed the new principal must get the most out of the high school staff in terms of performance but, at the same time, be a strong listener and able to relate to the challenges teachers face each day.

"The principal can't be content with the status quo," said parent and Lake Orion School Board vice president Birgit McQuiston. "They must always be looking for improvement."

In terms of his or her relationship with students, the parents expressed the need for the principal to be a disciplinarian, but also able to build a positive rapport with kids throughout the school.

Lobert agreed with the group, noting "I expect the new principal to be firm, but the kids will know he or she cares."

Parent George Edwards also said it will be critical for the new principal to have an open-door policy with staff and students.

"I want the principal to be approachable, but command respect," he said.

Parent and School Board Trustee Melissa Miller said it will be important for the principal to be a "learner", familiar with current best practices in instructing high school students.

Lobert said he has conducted similar searches in the past and the initial interview committee will be made up of associate principals, teachers, support staff, parents and students.

In addition, the associate superintendent said reference checks will be conducted to hear firsthand want colleagues think of the candidates.

Parents who are interested in participating on the interview team should contact him at the district's administrative office.

"I promise you we'll conduct a very thoughtful search to get the right person for the job," Lobert said, recognizing the high school principal position in Lake Orion is a very high-profile job.

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