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Monday, March 28, 2016

SBCSC Superintendent Search Important to All of Us

Posted by: Jeff Rea
President and CEO
St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce on Monday, March 28, 2016 at 12:00:00 am
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There’s a help wanted sign hanging outside the South Bend Community School Corp. offices. The school board has embarked on a search for the next superintendent of schools. Carole Schmidt will retire at the end of this school year.

This might be the most important and complicated CEO search happening in this community this year. In the end, a new leader is expected to begin serving around July 1 and will be ready to tackle the challenges of the 2016-2017 school year.

Since Schmidt announced her retirement, a search firm has been hired, the school board has contemplated what it desires in a new school leader, 113 personal interviews and focus groups have been conducted and 831 people have weighed in via an online survey to gauge community input. You can find more detail on the leadership profile created from that input at the school corporation website.

Expectations are high, with a wide range of wishes it would seem only a superhero could fill. Truth is, some people will be thrilled with the eventual pick, some won’t like it, and some won’t care. But we all should care. Schools play a critical role in the growth and development of our community, and a strong leader is needed to build upon the momentum already built by Schmidt and others.

But let’s think about role for a second. Some 18,669 students are enrolled in South Bend schools, making it the fourth largest district in the state. There are 34 schools that house those students, 1,214 teachers who provide classroom instruction, part of a staff of close to 2,000 total employees.

The corporation is the fourth-largest employer in our area. Annually, its budget is close to $215 million. In addition to the classroom, it also has the largest transportation and food service program in our region. And there are great expectations from more than 100,000 “shareholders” (the people who live in the district).

Superintendents are called upon to make significant decisions daily. It’s a job that’s hard to escape, basically keeping them on call around the clock, seven days a week. The school day begins early in the morning and often stretches well into the evening hours with activities. Students, parents, teachers and staff all expect to see that superintendent supporting key corporation activities, whenever they may occur.

On top of that, property tax caps have placed additional stresses on school budgets, and money that once went to public schools is now diverted to charter and private schools. The full implementation of tax caps in St. Joseph County in 2020 will place additional challenges on the budget over the next four years.

Because of the complexity and enormity of the job, the pool of candidates could be shallow. But despite its challenges, I believe the South Bend superintendent position is an attractive one and I’m confident the corporation will attract top candidates.

Ultimately, the decision rests with the seven members of the South Bend school board. I have confidence in the school board selecting a charismatic and dynamic leader who exemplifies many of the qualities outlined by parents, educators, staff and community leaders.

Most importantly, as a community we must be ready to rally around that new superintendent and give him or her the support needed to be successful in our community. The work ahead is great, but our expectations must be reasonable.

The time frame is short and we can’t waste our time or energy second-guessing the decision. In that scenario the real losers are our children.

Jeff Rea
President and CEO
St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Attracting Talent Shouldn't Limit Opportunities

Posted by: Jeff Rea
President and CEO
St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 12:00:00 am
 Comments (0)

Business leaders across the country will tell you that their top challenge is attracting and retaining talent. Top employees are critical to company growth and can be the difference between a company succeeding or failing. But companies are having a harder time these days keeping those top employees.

Gone are the days of employees working at one company their entire career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years. But employers say the expected tenure of the work force’s youngest employees is only about half of that.

Think about our own marketplace. Our history is dotted with stories of people who worked 30, 40 or even 50 years for local mainstay employers like Studebaker, Bendix, Uniroyal or Dodge. Few of those opportunities exist today.

In the old days, economic stability, health care plans, and pension plans were big factors in an employee staying at the same place for a long period of time. Couple that with limited opportunities and you have a recipe for employee longevity.

But employees have a lot more options available to them today. A broad mix of employment opportunities gives employees the chance to carefully assess those opportunities that provide them the flexibility, pay, benefits, and work conditions they desire.

Technology has made it easier to work for anyone from virtually anywhere in the world.

Employees have a basic desire for better opportunities for themselves. Higher pay and better benefits make it easier to take care of those basic challenges like paying a mortgage, buying a car, sending a kid to college or taking a dream vacation. But employees also desire a workplace where they feel valued.

Out of necessity, employers have become more flexible and have had to find creative ways to keep those top producers or to lure new talent. That has been much easier to do in the private sector than in other sectors. The private sector traditionally pays better and is able to offer better flexibility and benefits.

Flexible hours, work from home options and new office environments are among the things that can separate one employer from another. Though not all employers are able to offer them, business leaders are quickly looking at those factors that make them a preferred employer.

This is especially a challenge for the public sector, which traditionally has been less flexible in the workplace and now is finding it harder than ever to retain top talent. Though some employees are attracted to the opportunity to make a difference within a community, fewer will make the commitment for a whole career than their predecessors did.

Locally, a number of public sector employees have come under fire in recent months for moving to a new opportunity in the private sector. Some have suggested it was improper and soon the South Bend City Council may even consider trying to limit city employee opportunities in the private sector.

We live in a relatively small community, where many companies do business with the city and depending on your field, your opportunities can be limited. The private sector also recognizes that there are many talented people in the public sector who could thrive in a new opportunity. There are countless checks and balances to protect the interests of the public sector.

If the public sector wants to win the race for top talent, it must figure out how to pay workers a competitive wage and offer the type of workplace and flexibility employees are seeking.

Source: South Bend Tribune