The Board President-Superintendent Partnership

By Doug Eadie

What can superintendents do to ensure that their relationships with board presidents are close, positive, and productive?

Last month, I talked about the superintendent’s attitude toward the relationship and the need to understand the board president as a person. This column focuses on the division of labor between these two district leaders and what the superintendent can do to help the board president succeed in achieving his or her professional objectives.

The chair-CEO division of labor

One board-savvy superintendent of a large Midwestern district learned after a few years in the top spot that many, if not most, new board presidents will bring only a vague understanding of their role to the partnership. And every now and then, a new president will arrive who is just plain wrong-headed about the role.

This superintendent has had new presidents who see themselves as having a ceremonial role with no responsibility for the board’s governing decisions and judgments. And he’s had chairs who -- wrong-headedly and dangerously -- see themselves as a kind of co-CEO.

Very early in the relationship, the superintendent sits down with the board president for a detailed, explicit discussion of the basic division of labor between the two and the fundamental ground rules. He wants the president to understand -- and agree to -- defined roles.

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