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Park Hill offers
top job to

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark reporter

The Park Hill School Board on Friday announced it had selected a finalist in its search for a new superintendent for the school district.

On Tuesday, the board voted to offer that finalist a contract.

Dr. Scott Springston, who currently serves as superintendent of the Valley Center School District in Kansas, has been offered a contract.

The vote to do so came as some patrons opposed to the decision stood in protest in the lobby of the district offices. The vote tally among the seven-member board was 5-2, with board president Denise Schnell and vice president Janice Bolin casting the no votes.

According to Nicole Kirby, director of communication services, Tuesday’s vote to offer the job to Springston came after speaking with Dr. Springstons' references.

Board members said Dr. Springston’s qualifications align with the qualities that the community requested. The Board conducted a survey and several focus groups to develop a profile of the community’s expectations for its superintendent.

They also said that Dr. Springston’s career achievements show that he will be able to build on the progress the Park Hill School District has made under its current superintendent, Dr. Dennis Fisher.

The board said that like Dr. Fisher, Dr. Springston values collaboration with teachers, conservative financial management, instructional innovation and preparing students for the technology skills they will need to be successful in the 21st century.

“The decision was a difficult one, because we had such high-quality candidates,” board president Denise Schnell said. “I believe our community will be very impressed with Dr. Springston’s skills, leadership and vision.”

Dr. Springston has served as the superintendent of the Valley Center School District since 2006. Prior to serving the district as their superintendent he served for two years as an assistant superintendent.

The selection of the “outside” candidate brought opposition from some Park Hill patrons, who apparently favored an internal candidate, deputy superintendent Mark Miles. Organizers of a movement who dubbed themselves “Occupy Park Hill” formed on Facebook and about 25-30 showed up around the time of Tuesday’s board meeting (see related story).

Dr. Springston was a middle school principal and assistant principal in the Blue Valley School District for eight years. He taught science in the Hays School District from 1992 to 1996.

The Valley Center School District is comprised of three elementary schools; an intermediate school that services fifth and six graders; a middle school that services seventh and eighth graders; and a high school. The district's population is approximately 2700 students.

Dr. Springston told The Landmark this week that the Park Hill School District's reputation attracted him to apply for the position.

“I have spent some time in Kansas City and I have a lot of colleagues that have either been in the Park Hill School District or know of it,” said Springston “There is a strong sense of pride at Park Hill and that definitely drew me to the district,” he said.

Springston also acknowledged the high quality staff, ample support from the community, a strong sense of student achievement and accomplishment, as well as a pursuit of excellence as additional reasons he was eager to serve in the Park Hill School District.

When asked about what kind of successes he has experienced in his current position, Dr. Springston said, “We are in the people business and I measure success as the relationships I have established with people.”

He explained that he had developed an extraordinary amount of strong cohesive relationships. Springston further recognized his impact on overall student achievement. Test scores have been on the rise in the Valley Center School District and the district has seen over a 20 point increase per subgroup. Also during his tenure, the district successfully passed a $57.5 million dollar bond issue, he said.

He credited the improvement in student performance on the district's philosophy, which encourages students to make their own choices. Dr. Springston said his own two children have been able to benefit from an environment where children are active participants in the learning process and looks forward to continuing that philosophy in the Park Hill School District.

Dr. Springston identified his strengths as being able to manage budget reductions, leveling budget fluctuation, and lessening its overall impact on the budget. In the Valley Center School District “we planned ahead and have been wise fiscal managers,” said Dr. Springston.

Dr. Springston told The Landmark, school districts are facing changing budgets which will serve as a big challenge among all districts. He said he plans on partnering with businesses and making sure “everyone is at the table” to engage in discussions about what skills are most necessary for students to acquire in the next century.

Last August, Dr. Dennis Fisher, who currently serves as the district’s superintendent, announced his retirement, which will be effective at the end of June.

Last year the Park Hill school board on a 6-1 vote approved the hiring of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates to conduct a search of applicants to replace Dr. Fisher. The cost to the district was $22,000.