Sunday / March 3

So You Want To Be A Superintendent?


SuperintendentPublic education is the cornerstone of democracy. Its mission is to transmit the knowledge and skills needed for children to become productive and contributing members of society. Achieving this mission requires effective public school superintendents who understand the connection between the success of our public schools and the economic, political, and democratic success of our nation.

This need for effective district leadership is compounded by the great number of superintendent openings across the country due to the retirement of baby boomers, the stress of the job, and political instability. While this presents a unique opportunity, filling these positions with capable and competent educators is a daunting task.

Many highly competent administrators fail to become a superintendent because they lack an understanding of how to prepare for the position, interview successfully, or even negotiate their first employment agreement. Some have no idea what to do once they are selected, failing to achieve a successful transition from their current position to that of superintendent.

Talented people who aspire to become a superintendent are far more likely to accomplish that goal and achieve success on the job if they understand the totality of the position. It is like being an artist who has a vision of the completed work and the tools necessary to accomplish it.

Listed below are competencies to master before you submit your first application:

1. Preparation: Understand the roles and responsibilities of a superintendent; prepare yourself academically and professionally.

2. Teaching and Learning: Understand the expectation for visionary and inspirational leadership in defining and implementing an instructional program that permits all students to achieve the highest levels of academic success.

3. Application Process: Understand the complexities of the application and interview process; know how to negotiate a fair employment agreement once hired.

4. Transition: Understand the need for a smooth, strategic transition to your new position; establish or validate existing systems for working with your management team and staff.

5. Decision Making and Leadership: Master various decision making strategies including strategic planning, goal setting, and accountability systems.

6. Fiscal: Prepare for budgetary and fiscal leadership including long range planning and facilities management.

7.  School Board: Master basics of working with a school board, including informal and formal board communications, preparing and managing board meetings.

8.  Employee Groups: Establish positive working relationships with teachers, support staff and administration; build a foundation of trust.

9. Negotiations: Master the skills needed to lead successful negotiations with all employee groups.

10. Communications: Know how to use modern technology and media to communicate effectively with parents, staff and community.

If you want to be a superintendent, the opportunities are there and the challenges are great. Preparing to be a superintendent means starting now!

Written by

Mary Frances Callan and Bill Levinson are experienced superintendents with over thirty years of superintendent experience. They are the authors of Achieving Success for New and Aspiring Superintendents: A Practical Guide, which was written specifically for experienced principals and district office administrators who want to become superintendents.

They are committed to the belief that the more knowledgeable an administrator is about the superintendent position before seeking the position the more likely they will obtain a position and be successful in their first, most challenging year.

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