Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What if school districts had to apply for superintendents?

We all have school districts around us, either in our athletic conference, our education service areas, or in our region, that seem to be stuck. The district is wrought with administrative turnover, strained labor relations, and misalignment in school board governance. Innovation is met with resistance and self-interest by certain populations within the staff, and decisions seem to be made with without regard to vision and purpose. This is not even to mention that in most of these “stuck” districts, the community’s perception of the schools is one of burden and saddled responsibility than of community asset, center, and legacy.

Inevitably, stuck districts have to post an opening for another district administrator as their dysfunction generates the revolving door of leadership. Stuck communities would rather blame an outsider’s leadership for their continued failures rather than look to their own chaos to explain their status of being stuck. And when this stuck district accepts applications and hires another successor, they are destined again to repeat their malfunctions. How does this sound for a school district posting: “Stuck school district seeking a leader to accept a position that is probably temporary, where you will have to endure labor animosity that runs almost generationally deep, perpetual school board micro-management, and community skepticism, isolation, and suspicion. Also note that you will have no chance to increase revenue, and you will be operating under a vision that has not been updated since 1993.” 

But what if it were different? What if the responsibility of successfulness and capacity for accomplishment where equally shared by the superintendent, school district, and community? What if school districts together with communities had to prepare credentials to attract an innovative district administrator? What if a stuck community were forced to describe what they have to offer a leader? What would a school district’s qualifications look like?

Successful school communities do, by and large, share a number of qualities:

1. Consistent and Student-Focused Governance. NSBAs Key Works of schools is a great start to begin to head in this direction.
2. Consistent and Student-Focused Administration. Waters and Marzano have done excellent work in this area.
3. Community Trust, Respect, and Support of the School System. See WASB's Community Engagement resources.
4. Large-Scale Participation in a Culture of Contribution (vs. a culture of competing interest groups). Check out the Solution Tree endorsed, All Things PLC.
5. An Atmosphere of Forgiveness and Flexibility (vs. blame, suspicion, and condemnation).

The point, here, is that we share in responsibility for the success of the school district, and we all exert effort in possibilities instead of wasting time fighting about the problems. As school leaders over time come and go, are hired and move on, the ultimate long-term success of a school district is in the community's hands. They own it and are responsible for its success or failure.

What other characteristics do you think successful school communities have that would attract great administrators?

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to expand on that community engagement idea a bit. At the core, effective engagement is about dialogue. People do not have to agree on the issues, but they do need to agree to engage with each other in a respectful manner. Being able to listen to someone with an opinion that is contrary to yours and accepting that without getting defensive is an important component of successful engagement