What qualities make a good superintendent?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Caesar753, Apr 16, 2018.

  1. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Apr 16, 2018

    Ideas?
     
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  3. whizkid

    whizkid Companion

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    Supportive, outreaching, fair, clear and concise on goals and objectives
     
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  4. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Groupie

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    One who cares not only about student achievement, but about the work environment of the teachers and admin on site as well as their happiness. I’ve been lucky to have awesome school board members and a superb Head of School. They generally care about us and smile at us whenever they can and gives words of encouragement in person and in the emails they send out.

    I think superintendents should recognize that teachers are people at the end of the day and not just cogs in a machine. It’s important for them to follow policy and to follow protocol, but not to the point that they are overbearing, burdomsone, and becoming micro-managers.

    From reading your posts, Caesar753, it’s obvious that you care a lot about social issues and the mental and physically wellbeing of your students and fellow staff members. I think a superintendent should extend the same compassion that you do to the individuals you work with.

    Hopefully, this helps. And are you thinking about becoming a superintendent? I could see you doing that! :D
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
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  5. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Absolutely not!

    My district is looking for one, though, so I've been thinking about what I'd like to see in the next one.
     
  6. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Groupie

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    Hahaha! Your initial response made me laugh!
     
  7. Always__Learning

    Always__Learning Companion

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    They need to be good at listening, responding to people in the moment and representing the District 100% of the time. They need to be able to see the big vision and know how to consistently represent and communicate that vision. I've seen great SOs really shift the culture of my District in ways that really impact student achievement.
     
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  8. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Aficionado

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    I can't stand off-the-cuff answers from higher ups. If one doesn't know the answer to something, s/he shouldn't be afraid to say, "Let me give that some thought and get back to you ASAP!"
     
  9. Always__Learning

    Always__Learning Companion

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    Hi YTG, That wasn't really what I meant. I have watched my SOs walk into a room - sometimes its with teachers, sometimes administrators, sometimes parents. What I appreciate about them is that in the moment they are in, they can hear people (even when the person is not communicating well) and they can respond well. I've watched an SO at a school closure meeting listen to really angry parents and be able to really hear the parents and show that they do actually really care while still representing the District well. I've watched them listen to teachers who are really mad and just hear them and ask good questions and share the District perspective in a respectful and kind way. I also recognize that sometimes that SO gets called out for something pretty major and then 5 minutes later is the face of what we are doing and why. They have to be able to shift from task to task in a way that is unique. That is what I respect in the SOs I've got to work with.
     
  10. kellzy

    kellzy Comrade

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    Someone willing to actually come out to the schools and try their hand at our jobs!
    Far too many superintendents are bureaucrats...ours right now is an attorney. They need to either have experience in the classroom, or for the career bureaucrats they need to be willing to teach an occasional class so they can stay in touch with the realities of the job.
     
  11. Always__Learning

    Always__Learning Companion

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    Where I teach, Superintendents have to have been teachers for at last 5 years so I didn't factor that into my answer.
     
  12. ssgirl11

    ssgirl11 Rookie

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    I love our superintendent, he is definitely passionate about what he does, and tries to keep a positive attitude, no matter the situation. One thing that I would change, though, is I wish he would listen to the teachers more about issues that impact our classrooms directly. We know how certain things are going to work day-to-day, and I feel like he and the rest of the administration are so far removed from the classroom that they have no idea.
     
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  13. Been There

    Been There Comrade

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    Your question caught my eye because it reminded me of having to research school administrator behavior for my doctoral dissertation. How long was your most recent supt. employed by your district? As I recall, most tend to last an average of 5-6 years before moving on. Aside from having desirable personality traits and the qualities that others have mentioned, your district would benefit from a school leader who is knowledgeable of the principles of organizational development and has a proven track record of non-adversarial negotiations.

    Fortunately, I had the privilege of working for a supt. who remained with one district for over 20 years. Like many highly successful CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, he promoted mutual respect, support and trust in the district which greatly contributed to his professional longevity. Is your district currently working with a consultant to find your next CEO? Here's a link to a company that provides such a service (my former supt. is a partner with them). This would be your best bet for securing an outstanding individual to lead your district.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
  14. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    I used to work for an excellent superintendent. I'm in a tiny district and I know yours is huge, so what I've seen wouldn't necessarily be feasible, but the thought could be there. When I was hired and was coming in to sign my paperwork at the ad building, he stopped me in the parking lot, asked if I was new, and had a 5 minute personal conversation with me. He said, "We're so glad you're here." He was an excellent public speaker and a true champion of public education. In my area, there are a ton of privatization efforts and at any district level meeting, he always managed to make you leave actually pumped up to work in public education. He'd sometimes be on the news talking about various laws/initiatives and explaining why privatization hurts our kids. I'd always watch and think, "Yeah! That's my district!"

    He knew every teacher in the district. He'd regularly come into classrooms, take off his jacket, work with/talk to kids and ask teachers what they needed. He was in our school at least 1x per week. NO change was made district-wide without spending extensive time talking to teachers and figuring out what this would really mean for those of us in the trenches. Just everything about the way he operated made you feel important and appreciated as a teacher.

    Several years ago, my state passed a law that tied test scores to evaluations and the way they talked about it on the news, it made it sound like teachers who work in schools like mine were basically all going to get fired (lots of talk of losing your teaching license if you didn't meet proficiency standards in 3 years). Our super came around in person to every school building the day this law passed and met with the staff. He said that it was meant to punish teachers like us that chose to work with the neediest population and he would NOT let this happen. The bill apparently allowed for more local control than was publicized, and he made sure that we could use other data that would show growth, not state tests.

    Unfortunately, he moved on to a bigger and better district. The person we have now has been here for a few years and I'm positive couldn't pick me out of a line up. She comes to our school maybe once per year. District PD days and our beginning of the year kick off feel a bit more like, "succeed or else," rather than truly pumping you up to do the work ahead. A lot of decisions are made without talking to teachers, which of course means we end up with a lot of policies that are completely impractical.
     
  15. Been There

    Been There Comrade

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    Waterfall,
    Your former supt. was much like the one I described in my response - they actively encouraged everyone to realize their full potential which ultimately benefitted students. Unfortunately, your current boss is a mirror-image of my last supt. - seems to be the norm rather than the exception - and similarly will be responsible for the predictable downward trend in your district.
     
  16. Hokiegrad1993

    Hokiegrad1993 Companion

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    My superintendent visits almost every school every week. Visits classrooms and goes to all the high school sports games he can. He dresses intimidating in a suit with a bowtie (not saying a suit and bowtie makes a good superintendent just an interesting note). He gives off a very professional manner and is an ex marine.
     
  17. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Our trustees hired a consulting group to vet the candidates and select finalists. The four finalists they selected have no ties to the district, which upset many people. Furthermore, all four of them seem to have some black marks on their records, stuff that a quick Google search would immediately turn up. Our trustees were really unhappy with the finalists put forth by the consulting group, so they selected an additional fourteen finalists, all of whom do have some connection to the district. At least two of those finalists have very...interesting qualifications. They were subs. One is currently a "food service industry server and host" and the other is a spokesperson for a BBQ chain. I'm not entirely sure what makes those two people qualified to even consider applying for this job, much less be selected as finalists. I'm honestly stumped.
     
  18. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    We have like 350 schools in the district. Our superintendents are usually lucky if they can visit each school once per year.
     
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  19. Been There

    Been There Comrade

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  20. Been There

    Been There Comrade

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    Headhunters for school superintendents are dime a dozen - districts often pay tens of thousands of dollars to them only to end up with a lemon. Since your trustees were so "unhappy" with the first bunch and the second bunch had no one to get excited about, perhaps it might be time for them to get in touch with a different consulting group. The problem is selecting a firm that has a reputation for delivering quality goods.

    Having worked in both small (2 schools) and large (143 schools) districts and everything in-between - and tracking them over several decades - I've observed that the majority tend to hire superintendents who eventually fail miserably and depart after just a few years only to start the whole damn process over again. Each time, they leave with a severance package that far exceeds their base salary! What I find most disgusting is that a quick online search shows that these chronic losers often leave a trail of disasters as they move from one district to another - with a trusty headhunter, they never fail to get rehired!

    From what I've seen, a major reason that districts often end up with ineffective superintendents is that school boards themselves who make the ultimate hiring decision have no idea what to look for in the list of candidates are presented to them. So, for what it's worth, these would be my personal recommendations:

    1) Trustees need to educate themselves regarding the characteristics of effective superintendents - i.e. they need to do their own research. This will enable them to assess the "content knowledge" of a potential headhunter and avoid being fooled by smooth talkers.

    BTW, a highly effective CEO/supt. does not necessarily have to come from the toxic wasteland of the public schools. This is a myth tends to perpetuate the problems in our schools today. IMO, the leadership qualities needed to run a 350-school district can best be found in an apolitical individual from the private sector. So, why hire a headhunter a headhunter that specializes in working for school districts? Do you see the irony here?

    2) Hire a consulting firm with a portfolio of satisfied customers - trustees themselves should contact former clients to assess their degree of customer satisfaction. (This is no different than hiring a plumber for your own house.) Again, don't just accept the sales pitch a potential headhunter.

    3) My final suggestion would be to contact Dr. Donald Remley who works with the Cosca Group. Dr. Remley is a highly-accomplished, well-respected and honest individual who would be able to provide intelligent answers to your questions - at the least, he would be able to give your trustees some extremely helpful advice. I would hire him in a heartbeat for direction in your current search. Right now, it doesn't look very promising. (If you do speak to Dr. Remley, tell him Dr. Bob referred you!)
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018
  21. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Oh, there are people in the second bunch of finalists that the trustees are happy about. I suspect that I know which one they want, and it's the same person I want. We'll see how it goes.

    In any event, the trustees have no interest in taking my suggestions to heart. I'm sure that they will say that they did their due diligence when selecting a consulting agency, whom they did pay about $50,000 for ultimately unsatisfactory results.
     

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