How to reduce the challenges a Superintendent of a School District has every day!

By Robert Reinking posted 03-05-2019 21:57

Let's see as you may have heard it all before:

"Its all your fault if the School District becomes bankrupt, it's the school district administration that wastes money, cutting services and even from within. There's not enough funding allowed for each school student program or building extensions or extra teaching staff!"  "Fifty students to a classroom are not good enough so what are you doing about it, Superintendent?"  We have not even started on union activity directed at School Superintendents but you get the gist.

So do you have the confidence in the State Education system or your local Board? There may be a claim that you are in the most vulnerable position and guess what, it's now no surprise that the average tenure for Public School District Superintendents is dwindling:
  • The mean tenure for a superintendent is four to five years and declining.
  • The annual turnover rate for superintendents is between 17% and 19%.
For some Superintendents that have "burn out", they do not even come back to the industry, with several going to the private sector where it's less volatile. Some are leaving the industry early and going to other sectors because the continual rot creates anxiety, affects family life and, at the end of the day, it has become difficult to go to work each day. As the USA becomes more polarized, the Superintendent is just another easy target to attack.
The problem is, its not the answer when you want to remain in the industry and wanting to protect the value of an education based public service, the value to your communities and make a difference. It does seem you are at the end of the road when you cannot afford any more budget cuts, any more pay cuts because now you have made it personal. i.e. You want to help the school district and be seen to do so but in reality, very few cares!

Here are our ideas to stop the rot. 

1. The old strategy of knee-jerk response to every remark, publicity, administration decision is dead. It requires excessive time consumption in someone digging out old records, compiling a report, that may be subjective and in the end, does not satisfy the school board, PTA nor the community.

Consider having a strategic /operational planning tool that documents every task, event, project plus knowing who is assigned, what was done and a report that shows milestones and current position. When it's transparent, accurate and aligns the whole school administration and each school, it's very hard for people to criticize you! It's not about proving the naysayers wrong but about transparent validation of all action plans that have been approved, budgeted, qualified in manpower and taxpayers money invested wisely. all tracked, managed and reported. This tool does not work on its own, as we have a proven multi-year skills-based continual training on top of it that will educate your staff to recognize positive outcomes, to manage their tasks and complete them, knowing the accumulative outcomes will be a positive for the School District as a whole and its community. This process also protects the value of the work all your staff does, generating more self-esteem and confidence knowing they are achieving goals with positive outcomes and there is merit in the end.

2. Superintendents have tried intranets and communicating downstream but the problem was no one was reading the emails, articles or memos and/or actioning them by promoting good outcomes. Go beyond "Maintaining the kitchen cupboard" Imagine an enterprise-wide dashboard where we have applied Point 1. and so this Dashboard has all the accurate positive actions, assigned tasks, strategic goals on display (.. and has been agreed to by the Board), project milestones and for senior staff financial graphical displays of budget spent, budget available. This reduces ambiguity and limits those that seek to disrupt the good intention of the Superintendent's administration both from within and in the public arena.

3. Educate the School Board. Avoid confrontation, be respectful and support them from day one, but be clear what policies that have been approved, how they will be implemented and for both the School Administration, School Principals and the School Board take the good and bad together with regards outcomes. Now, imagine attending a School Board meeting as the School Superintendent and instead of being bombarded by negative accusations, perceived poor decisions, wasting money claims, you can simply bring up your strategic/operational application, call on any topic and show within seconds the current status, the facts of events completed, the appropriate information, how the money was spent, what was approved by the School Board or Administration to complete a task/project plus having factual financials in a graphical display to validate it. The result is, after a while all the misguided claims start to disappear. Just positive reporting prevails and so you are able to continually improve both your relationship with Education Board, School Principals and the quality of life in the community. It will show you are helping all parties achieve their goals.

4. The big one  "Your Community" ouch!! Fact is you will always get someone in the community with a bee in their bonnet. Imagine all the above solution features and now you can present all information to the public on a unique webpage on your school district website. It will show the public "real-time" where every project, every dollar spent, every decision made and agreed by the Education Board or Administration or any of the school Principals, or for that matter the community requests all on a screen. Community issues will still be there but imagine it being reduced to just a few outstanding matters that may have merit to follow up. You now control your outbound media and apply the guideline "To keep the community informed of all School District affairs" 

The result is achievable and because of your persistence to remain in the position, move forward and through your vision, knowing you can achieve all the above to create that transparency and aligned work ethic within your School District. This is what will counter all the "rot" because "fairness" becomes obvious, the FACTS become obvious and your integrity remains intact!