How to Hire a Superintendent

According to Suzanne.

In my warped world view, superintendents tend to just jump around district to district.  They stay long enough to have appeared to have done SOMETHING, but not so long that they actually have, thus managing to appear competent. Or at least not incompetent.

I feel like many areas of public life, not enough scrutiny is placed on the person who is going to be leading our students into the future.  In fact, I think that school districts operate a bit like incredibly lucky Exxon Valdezs or Costa Condordias.  We’re just one  catastrophe away from learning our leaders are, for all intents and purposes, drunken cowards who have no clue what leading really means and will feign ignorance at the first real sign of having his/her feet held to the fire.

My solution? Well, since I keep being told it’s the 21st century (like I haven’t figured *THAT* out), I feel we go all social media and Survey Monkey on them.  It seems to me that outgoing superintendents should be mourned.  The whole district community should be saddened at the loss of a true leader, and work towards keeping him/her.  A superintendent’s departure shouldn’t be treated as though it’s no different from being told it’s Tuesday or hot outside.

School districts should be polling potential candidate’s former district asking parents, students, teachers, management, faculty, school board, community members, and all other district employees a series of questions designed to find out WHAT, if anything, that person did during his/her tenure, as well as if they will miss his/her leadership, name five accomplishments or improvements, and name five outstanding issues.  We should be asking about leadership style, accomplishments (BEYOND the job description), visibility, insight, innovation, and community building

It’s surprising to me that in THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY we are still just looking at cover letters, resumes, and letters of recommendation.  There doesn’t appear to be a comprehensive Google search, full review of a candidate’s teaching style and ability, as well as checking out more than the references provided?  Where are our school boards going beyond to actually hire the best people for leading our learning environments?

If it were me, I’d expect the candidate to come in knowing the district, walking me through the plan to maintain or improve, and have a clue as to who the stakeholders are. After all, if they’re only selling themselves that doesn’t help me see what they’re going to do for the district as a whole.

Then after all that, I’d post my top candidates and ask the community to submit follow-up questions, comments, concerns or even “this seems like the best person for the job”.  When we’re talking a QUARTER MILLION dollars and up, we should be getting the best.  Furthermore, let’s treat them they way they feel teachers should be treated.  You get renewed based on the test scores, you’re an “at-will” employee, and raises will be based on evaluations from the classroom.

Until we improve innovation and transparency at our highest levels we will never get the educational system our students deserve.  In other words, stop TELLING me it’s the 21st Century and actually start HIRING like it’s the 21st Century.


4 thoughts on “How to Hire a Superintendent

  1. Alex Jones says:

    One should ask why there is a high turnover rate for superintendents, then try and look at keeping the good ones in place.

    • Suzanne says:

      I think a lot of superintendent’s really only stay in place for about 5 years before they start looking for new jobs. Without a proven positive or negative track record they are usually offered increasingly higher salaries, better benefits, and other perks based on their “experience”.

      In my entire teaching time, I’ve never had a GOOD superintendent.

  2. Suzanne says:

    Perhaps, but WHY can’t we change it? At at time when people are demanding educational reform, why focus strictly on teachers and not on the entire system itself? I don’t have a good metaphor; in fact, the only thing that comes to mind is, “Kill the head, and the body will die.”

    In this case, change, challenge, nourish the head and the body will thrive?

    I see no reason to just START making change rather than WAITING for it. While I understand the concept of acceptance and tolerance, and I recognize I can’t change this, it doesn’t negate the fact that this is one paradigm in education that needs shifted.

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