What Makes a Great School Superintendent?

Many moons ago, one of my dreams was to become a school superintendent. But, life ended up taking me in a different direction, allowing me to own my own education company, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. However, every once and a while, I think about the school superintendency, and whether or not I would have been a good fit. Because of this, I started to think of all of the characteristics that great superintendents should possess and decided to use my curiosity to fuel this article.

So what does it take?

As it turns out, it takes a breadth of specific and nuanced skills to be a great superintendent. Let’s discuss them.

  1. Watch and listen to the community and school district needs. You don’t have to be a clairvoyant to figure out the needs of your community and school district. However, you must be willing to listen to your constituents and put their needs in front of your own. They will tell you exactly what’s broken and give you some insight into what can be done to fix it. Don’t get seduced by the sound of your ideas and silence the voices of those in the trenches.
  2. Put the interests of kids first. In school districts all over the US, we see superintendents and school boards doing what is in their best interests and forgetting about the kids. To be a great superintendent, all you have to do is make decisions based on what is in the best interests of your students. And if others don’t like it, ask them if they are in education to help kids, or help themselves.
  3. Be transparent. When it comes to running a school district, sometimes it feels like anything can go wrong, and it always happens at the worst possible moment. When it comes to scandals, budget shortfalls, or radical reforms, keeping things secret will only make your constituents question your trustworthiness. That’s why school superintendents and school boards must always be transparent. Let the district’s stakeholders know about problems and issues as soon as possible and allow them to be part of the solution.
  4. Create a grand vision. As an administrator, your subordinates count on you to lead them to success. To accomplish this, you need to know what direction you plan to take your school district in. That’s why great superintendents create a grand vision outlining where the district will be in 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years. This allows your stakeholders to rally around a cause, which makes the arduous grind of teaching and leading more bearable. If you can accomplish this, you will be able to take your district to new heights of success and productivity.
  5. Be a great communicator. To be a great superintendent, you need to be a great communicator. This ensures that all of your school district’s stakeholders have the information that they need to help you make the district a success. When communicating with an individual, small group, a school, or the entire district, make sure you understand your audience. This will help you craft a message that is clear and concise, and if need be, springs your audience into action.

Well, that’s it for my list. It is not meant to be exhaustive, but we have covered the essential characteristics of a great superintendent. What would you add?

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