Searching for a superintendent is not an easy task and one that the Clinton School District has not had to do since 1996, when board members hired current superintendent Randy Clegg.

But with Clegg's resignation in hand — he is leaving the district this summer to take a superintendent’s job in Minnesota — the time has come for the board to start the unenviable job of looking for a new leader.

As part of its work, the board has asked residents to fill out a survey asking what they think is important when it comes to hiring a superintendent.

The Clinton Herald Editorial Board also has taken a look at the survey and weighed in with answers to questions that include what are the strengths of the district and its challenges and barriers, what should be the district's most important goals, and what are the three most important characteristics the next superintendent should possess.

We believe the district’s assets are its strong curriculum, including its high-level courses at the high school, staff members, the new elementary buildings and the implementation of the local option sales tax that will be dispersed on a per pupil basis, which will provide more money to pay for district needs.

But there are challenges: Declining enrollment, educational facilities at the middle and high schools — those for athletics and fine arts among them — drop-out rates that need to come down and the issue of homeless children and those who are living at or below poverty level. We know the latter items are an issue due to the large number of students on free and reduced lunch plans.

What should the goals be over the next three years? We believe they include managing the bottom line to ensure fiscal soundness, resolving the high school building situation, serving all students and making sure that the voting public understands the need to approve a physical plant and equipment levy to provide maintenance funds that will keep our buildings in good working order.

But we’d like to add something here. The district really needs to look beyond the next three years. How about strategic planning that sets goals for the next 10, 15 or 20 years with a plan A and B for each? This would provide continuity and cohesiveness of action from one board to the next so that goals are clear and there is something to work toward — not a reinvention of the wheel.

So — the bottom line — what do we believe are the qualities the next superintendent should possess?

Communication is key; that means communicating with staff and the public so policy and plans are understood before they become an issue. Having strong leadership skills and developing staff and employees — non teachers, too, since the district is one of the largest employers in the city — also is important. The next leader also needs to know school finance and show others how it applies to Clinton. And here’s a biggie — learn what makes this community different and embrace it.

It’s a big order to fill — getting someone with the knowledge necessary who helps others understand it and hopefully boosts morale and confidence in the district, its leaders and teachers in the process.

It’s a tough task for a board to complete. Hopefully, the input from residents, as provided by the surveys, combined with the board’s work and assistance from the search firm will lead us to the perfect fit.