What A Superintendent Should Know About Their District

  • What Is the State of the District?
  • What Are the Staffing Levels Like in the District?
  • What Is the Level of Student Achievement?
  • What's the Political Climate of the Municipality?
  • Who Are the People Upon Whom to Depend?

A good superintendent of schools can foster a terrific atmosphere of learning. A bad superintendent can kill a school district. As with any position of leadership, having good information and lines of communication is crucial to one's success. Most successful superintendents have a professional communications specialist on their staffs. These specialists do "all the heavy lifting" when it comes to information so that the superintendent can concentrate on using that knowledge to the betterment of the district. At a basic level, there are five things that every superintendent must know to be effective:

1. What Is the State of the District?

This question covers all of the large-scale attributes of the district, such as:

•The number of buildings in the district and their upkeep requirements

•The number of students in all grade levels and the population of each school

•The amount in the coffers for both day-to-day operations and funding of the district in the future

•The transportation assets of the district and their upkeep requirements

The superintendent cannot formulate a plan for district operations without knowing the answers to these questions. These answers do not help the superintendent to accomplish anything, however, they merely tell him or her both where he or she must begin and with what he or she has to work.

2. What Are the Staffing Levels Like in the District?

Staffing affects class size, which affects learning. Are the district's teachers overworked? Do they have enough funding to support their classrooms, or must they buy supplies out of their own money? Through the professional communications specialist and other school superintendent resources, the boss has to find out and take steps to remedy any problems he or she finds.

3. What Is the Level of Student Achievement?

In the 21st century, it's a hard fact of educational life that poorly performing schools are shut down because the powers that be consider supporting them a waste of money. A superintendent must create an environment that engenders not just learning but also growth. In an era of school choice, raising the educational bar and showing fine testing results will attract people to the district, thus ensuring its survival.

4. What's the Political Climate of the Municipality?

It's unfortunate that some people just don't like public schools. They homeschool. They want their children to go to private school. They don't approve of "left-wing teachers and professors." The list goes on and on. Although a superintendent must always do what is best for the students, he or she must also work with the community at large so as not to alienate the citizens too much. The balance between leading and inspiring, including change, and just plain dictating is small.

5. Who Are the People Upon Whom to Depend?

There is an old adage in the world of education: "The secretaries know." Some of the best school superintendent resources are the highly experienced brains of the support staff. A successful boss will treat these staff members well and rely on their wisdom. In any environment where teamwork is essential for success, each member of the team must be respected and feel valued. No one should work at cross purposes.

Are these the only things a superintendent needs to know? No, a superintendent has to know a great deal more. In fact, the best superintendents are the ones who practice what they preach when it comes to learning. They learn constantly, think critically, and lead by example.

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