Choosing the Perfect Superintendent

By Doug Eadie

As school board members, you regularly make decisions that have a significant impact on your district’s affairs -- such as updating your values and vision statements, adopting the annual operating plan and budget, reaching agreement with your faculty union on a new salary structure. But the highest-impact, highest-stakes decision that you and your board colleagues make is choosing the CEO.

What’s at stake? Far more than you might think: your district’s educational performance in terms of student achievement, faculty and administrator morale, and your district’s managerial and administrative performance in areas like financial planning and management. Also at stake are external relationships with the community and pivotal groups like the chamber of commerce and local government. Even the governing performance of your board is on the line.

Of course, your superintendent working alone couldn’t accomplish much. He or she must be backed up by you and your school board colleagues and supported by capable administrators and well-designed systems and processes. But no other district employee is in a better position -- in terms of authority, visibility, and access to resources -- to impact your district’s affairs.

If you choose the wrong superintendent, experience has taught that the consequences are likely to be dire. You can expect to see the board-superintendent working relationship erode, educational reforms bite the dust, morale decline, and public support drain away. And on top of that, you’ll be going through another expensive, time-consuming search you hadn’t budgeted for.

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