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Public Education Outlook: Alina Lehnert

Board President, Springfield Public Schools

Posted online

Alina Lehnert, a strengths development expert who runs a leadership consulting group, was first elected to the school board in 2016.

SBJ: How has the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent virtual learning changed education?
Lehnert: There is no denying that this season feels and is different. Virtual learning has really been a vital part of education for many years. The pandemic really just brought virtual learning to the forefront. We are fortunate from the SPS perspective that our district had prioritized technology tools along with making at-home Wi-Fi accessible … prior to COVID. We have an incredible team of educators who have made those adjustments, and they continue to meet the needs of our students. In some ways, the season has really strengthened our virtual learning opportunities and experiences by being able to meet the unique learning needs of our students, because that’s always been our goal. Moving forward, I think you’ll see learning modalities adjust to meet the needs of its learners no matter the season.

SBJ
: The district is in the midst of a leadership change as Superintendent John Jungmann will retire at the end of the school year. The board conducted surveys, both internal and external, of what people are looking for in that position. What are the findings of that outreach?
Lehnert: There were over 2,000 voices heard. We felt that that was a phenomenal response. Those data points revealed what is called the superintendent profile, and those are the nine themes that were surfaced as desired traits in the new SPS leader: The first one was trusted leader who values ethics and integrity by practicing moral authority. Leads by example through honest practices. Effective communicator creating strong school and community relations. Accountable and responsible for actions. Shows transparency by sharing organization goals and challenges to promote staff engagement. Empowers others by promoting team strengths and students-first approach. Provides [and] sustains systematic and evidence-based interventions to obtain equitable access to learning for all students. Builds strong diverse teams and promotes teamwork for the success of all. And lastly, makes strategic high-quality decisions with big-picture lens while managing district resources. Now their job, (GR Recruiting) consultants, is really to do the recruiting work. We are awaiting to hear back from them in February.

SBJ
: SPS has held several ribbon cuttings and groundbreakings in 2020 from the $168 million Proposition S bond issue passed by voters. What benefits do you expect to see from that investment?
Lehnert: We have been able to see that projects are being completed in a timely manner and are under budget. Whether it’s the enhanced secure entrances or the incredible accessible playgrounds for all students or the storm shelters or new learning classrooms and libraries, there’s just so many to name.

SBJ: Seven new names have thrown their hat in the ring for April’s school board election. Incumbent Jill Patterson also is running. What do you think of the high interest in the board?
Lehnert: For three seats, I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s great that so many individuals are interested and just simply the opportunity to serve and to look out for the best interest of our SPS kids and staff and community. As the months unfold, we look forward to learning more about each candidate. It is critical that those who are running for a board position to understand the role of board governance and that they’re interested in making decisions for the greater good of all of our kids, staff and community.

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