Focus Group Executive Summary

In late February, focus groups were conducted with the following stakeholder groups:

Cape Elizabeth High School,
 Cape Elizabeth Middle School, 
Pond Cove Elementary School,
 Cape Elizabeth Town Councilors (3), Senator Rebecca Millett, Cape Elizabeth District Leadership Team, Cape Elizabeth School Board

Each of the focus groups was asked the same three (3) questions:

  • 1)  What are the three (3) most important leadership qualities you would like to see in the next Superintendent of Schools?
  • 2)  What are the three (3) most significant strengths of the Cape Elizabeth School Department?
  • 3)  What are the three (3) most important issues facing the Cape Elizabeth School 

Participants were also asked for comments. In parenthesis are the number(s) of individuals who agreed with the proffered comment.

Leadership Qualities:

Reviewing the results, which are remarkably similar between and among the various groups, one of the most important leadership qualities would be that of a good communicator. The new superintendent must be able to listen, assess and evaluate district initiatives, ensure that disparate opinions are considered and stay the course previously charted. There was consensus around keeping the momentum moving around the Strategic Plan and working diligently to help focus resources and efforts on key priorities. Staff felt strongly that the individual needed to be transparent and able to articulate clearly the vision for the district. An important quality was one where the new superintendent would be an advocate for staff and students.

A second set of qualities necessary for the new superintendent would be the “soft” or “EQ” skills necessary to connect with individuals in the community. Comments proffered noted that the new superintendent should be approachable, transparent, supportive and personable. An individual who is able to build consensus around a commitment to continuous improvement of instruction. While participants noted that they would like a strong leader with a vision for the Cape Elizabeth School Department, they are also looking for someone who is kind and can serve as an effective bridge between the school board and staff. Visibility in the schools and community is important. Confidence and the ability to take risks would also be welcomed. Someone who is open minded and willing to work with everyone.

Lastly, an individual who is able to bring people along and help them see the value in proposed changes. All focus groups want an individual with central office or Superintendent experience who is highly knowledgeable about current best practices and research as it relates to education.

Significant Strengths of the Cape Elizabeth School Department:

As with the first question, the themes here are remarkably similar between and among the various groups. Individuals responded that the School Department is well thought of, committed to excellence and has a very strong reputation. Programs are highly regarded and there is a complement of a highly trained professional staff. Supportive parents are also a significant strength. Students come to school prepared to learn.

Most Important Issues Facing the Cape Elizabeth School Department:

Again, the respondents were remarkably similar with their answers to this question. Morale, trust issues between and among the various levels of administration, e.g. building administrators, central office administrators and the superintendent and concerns regarding a lack of flexibility or willingness to consider other ideas was evident from all survey data. Many of the individuals who responded were concerned about the budget and potential staff reductions. Communication concerns surfaced. One of the board members said that individuals were beset with “change fatigue”. Several respondents suggested that follow-through was important and ensuring that relevant professional development was provided for staff. Being consistent was a theme that emerged as an important issue.