Shawnee Mission board president Brad Stratton answers questions about superintendent candidate pool, selection process

Board president Brad Stratton.

Following the meeting during which the board of education named Pattonville Public Schools superintendent Michael Fulton as Shawnee Mission next top administrator, board president Brad Stratton spoke with reporters, fielding questions about the candidate pool, deliberation process, and factors that led to Fulton’s selection.

Michael Fulton has been the superintendent of Pattonville Public Schools outside St. Louis for the past 11 years.

Here are summaries of his responses. Full audio from the media scrum is at the bottom of the post.

How did you all go about making the final decision over the weekend?

On Saturday, the board had an hour-and-a-half interview with each of the three finalists after they concluded their public meet-and-greets. (The board had already had earlier hour-and-a-half interviews with each of the three finalists in an earlier round). At around 5 p.m. Saturday, the board received all of the input forms patrons had filled out from the meet-and-greet sessions. The board then reviewed those forms, their notes from the interviews, and the priorities profile developed by Ray and Associates through a community survey last fall. “We went back to that over and over again,” Stratton said of the priorities list, which found that district patrons wanted a new leader who would promote “positive and professional environment for district employees and [the] Board,” and “inspire trust and self-confidence and model high standards” above all else. Stratton said “consensus” was found at around 7 or 8 p.m. Saturday.

Some patrons have expressed surprise or concern that no female candidates made it to the finalists round. How did that come to be?

Stratton noted that Ray and Associates had advertised and recruited to generate as diverse a candidate pool as possible. He noted that the board had pulled the requirement that applicants hold a doctorate or have previous experience as a superintendent in hopes of attracting a variety of applicants. The district attracted 67 applicant for the job, but of those who applied, the board and search firm felt the three male finalists best fit the priorities profile. “I just assure you that there were lots of wonderful candidates that represent a lot of diverse areas in that,” Stratton said of the applicant pool.

Fulton is coming from a much smaller district than Shawnee Mission. What do you say to people who are concerned about his lack of big-district experience?

Stratton said that the board expected that the applicants would be looking for a “new rung on the ladder” in their professional lives, and that “people don’t go horizontal, and most people don’t go down.” Stratton said the board had gotten comfortable with Fulton’s qualifications based in part on his involvement in the Missouri Kansas Coalition of Superintendents. “He already knows this area and he’ll fit right in,” Stratton said.

What were the qualifications that made Fulton stand apart from the other two finalists?

Stratton said Fulton’s “genuineness” was a key factor in the final decision. “We found him to be very genuine and very sincere,” Stratton said, noting that the group had spoken with groups in Pattonville about Fulton’s ability to interact with the community. “There’s some wonderful YouTube videos of him interacting with teacher and with parents,” Stratton said. “And that helped us to.”

Full audio from the media scrum is below:

UDPATED: Board member Heather Ousley posted the following explanation of the search process on Twitter:

Just want to share a few words about the selection process. We spent hours reviewing video interviews of the candidates before narrowing the pool to the second tier. We also reviewed binders of information on the candidates, their districts, and their letters of recommendation.

We then did a first round of interviews, an hour and a half each, with the second tier candidates. We spent time outside of executive session doing our own homework, and at the conclusion of this interview phase we deliberated who would make it to the final tier.

Once we had that portion completed, we then figured out the logistics of presenting the finalists to the public. This was not an initial term and condition of the application process, and we were happy it came together so that the public could meet the candidates.

On Saturday, after the public met each candidate, the candidate then sat down with SMNEA union head, and then sat down with the board for an additional hour and a half.

At the conclusion of the interview process, 7 copies were made of each comment sheet completed, and each board member received the comments and we reviewed. We then went over the emails we each received regarding the candidates.

We also monitored social media, viewed the video from the forum, and then, as I like to put it, “we cussed and discussed” for a few hours.

I know how excruciatingly frustrating it is to not have access to the decision process, and I hope this helps shed light on that a bit. For what it’s worth, as an attorney, I am in the habit of logging my hours. I tracked 62 hours on this process from Jan 8th till last night.

I look forward to welcoming Dr. Fulton. #smsd