Speakers at a public forum Thursday urged the Cumberland County school board to seek a superintendent who values diversity.

About 70 people attended the forum hosted by the board to get public opinion for its search for a new leader of the school system. Five of nine speakers mentioned the need for inclusiveness, with several specifically talking about providing a safe learning environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

Emily Lenning, a professor at Fayetteville State University, said a recent study showed that nearly all students in North Carolina schools regularly hear anti-LGBT statements. She said she wants the new superintendent to be a “champion for the well-being of all students.”

Robert Taber, who said he is a career educator, said the new leader should be someone who is willing to support all students. The superintendent should be “willing to do what works, not just what sounds good,” Taber said.

Hanah Ehrenreich, executive director of Sustainable Sandhills, encouraged the board to select a leader who is familiar with “green” projects to continue work the school system has already done in the area. On a personal note, she said she would like to see a superintendent who supports minorities and who would work to prevent bullying, including against vulnerable LGBT students.

Susan Prime said she wanted to speak on behalf of LGBT students. She said the social climate often makes them feel they have little value.

Sue Nilsen said the superintendent should promote more unity and less bullying.

“It is absolutely appropriate for schools to teach kindness and mutual respect,” she said. “It all starts with the superintendent, and I can’t wait to meet her ... or him.”

Dr. Sidney Brooks, a dentist, said the new superintendent should understand the unique challenges faced by military troops and their families. He said the leader should have an impact on state issues.

“We as a community must come together and support that individual,” he said.

Carol Stubbs, president of the Cumberland County Association of Educators, presented the results from a survey of its members. The new superintendent should support smaller classroom sizes, discipline, training, professional development and a culture of learning, she said.

Greg West, chairman of the school board, said 450 people have taken a community survey about qualifications the new superintendent needs. About 1,400 school system employees have taken a similar survey, he said.

The community survey, which is available until Monday, can be accessed and completed online by clicking the survey link on the front page of the school system’s website at ccs.k12.nc.us.

Staff writer Steve DeVane can be reached at sdevane@fayobserver.com or 486-3572.