Wednesday / June 19

If You Want to Be a Superintendent, Get Started NOW!



Success in seeking a superintendent position requires both personal commitment and professional preparation. Historically, most superintendents begin as teachers, earn an administrative credential and move on to a principal or district office position. Some study for a doctorate while others enroll in superintendent preparation programs offered by state and national superintendent organizations. Others confer with colleagues and mentors about the possibility of becoming a superintendent.

Whatever your experience, once you decide that you want to be a superintendent you must take action to achieve your goal. You won’t become a superintendent because you “deserve” the job: you will become a superintendent because you understand what the position entails, know your strengths and weaknesses, and have mastered the skills needed to apply and interview for the position.


What Should I Do Between Now And January?

  • Understand the roles and responsibilities of the superintendent. Take time to talk with superintendents and board members in different types of districts.
  • Reflect on why you want to be a superintendent. Assess your knowledge and skills. Make certain this is the job where your interests, knowledge and talents can best be put to use.
  • Determine what kind of superintendent position you are seeking: location, grade level configuration, enrollment, demographics, student performance, and compensation expectations.
  • Maintain contact with your professional network of colleagues; identify those who will serve as both written and verbal references. Let them know when you submit applications.
  • Learn how to negotiate an employment agreement. Identify an attorney who will guide you through the negotiation process. Do this before you are selected for your first superintendent position.
  • Maintain the highest level of performance in your current position. School boards seek candidates with a strong track record of leadership and accomplishment. References are carefully and thoroughly checked.
  • Review the role of search consultants; understand the difference between open and closed searches, learn where to look for vacancy notifications.
  • Review the Do’s and Don’ts in completing applications; know what to include in each application and how to respond to open-ended questions.
  • Prepare for the interview process: district committees, select second interviews and final board interviews. Understand the concept of “fit,” and how to present yourself as a confident, accomplished professional.
  • Master the nuances of the final phases of the hiring process: planning the board site visit, due diligence screening, finalizing your employment agreement, contract negotiation and ratification and introduction to the community.
  • Know the best strategies to use in transitioning to your new position.

You have time to master all these areas of focus before the annual spring superintendent hiring season begins. Get started 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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