Leander ISD has its share of big problems — which is not unusual for a big, rapidly growing suburban school district. In fact, many of these problems are to be expected.
For example, the district will need to continue its aggressive building program, opening one school a year for the foreseeable future. It will also need to pass another bond measure to pay for a seventh high school very soon.
The district will need to prepare for a future that will see a continued shift in student population away from many of the district’s older buildings just at the time they’ll be requiring major renovations.
Aging facilities — and the need to build more — isn't the only problem facing the district.
A sprawling school district made up of thousands of teachers and students often results in tone-deaf decisions as demonstrated by the the tensions that boiled up after a racist "promposal" was shared by a Vandegrift High School student. To make matters much worse, school security called the police on an activist who staged a peaceful protest of the district's dismissive response at a school board meeting. That incident led an outcry from students who say they have experienced race-based harassment and discrimination in the district for years and to parental demands that the district do a visibly better job of diversity and inclusion training for staff.
Running a school district like Leander will be a challenge. That's why it's important the Leander school trustees get it right when they select a person to fill the extra-large shoes Dr. Dan Troxell will leave behind.
Community input directs trustees to find someone who is a good listener, who can help the district maintain something of a small-town feel, who has experience in the classroom background, who is already in the district and knows its culture, someone who will set a high standard for excellence. Oh, and be a Texan.
The process has closed so the application from Leander's next superintendent is among the large number already on hand. Over the next few weeks, Leander trustees will cull through these applications then interview those candidates they see as appropriate to become superintendent.
While all of the characteristics outlined above are important, we believe that the challenges facing the district are too important to eschew the value of experience dealing successfully with similar challenges.
A good listener? You bet. Commitment to excellence? Absolutely. A home-grown leader? If possible. A Texan? Well, okay. But, we believe the most important criteria trustees should apply, above all else — other than a commitment to transparency — is experience.
Our schools deserve no less.