The pressure on public schools today is immense. Public Schools are expected to be all things to all people. Provide top scores on testing, be accountable for every penny of tax dollars being spent and solve all the social problems our society faces. This pressure has meant the job of superintendent has gone from difficult to nearly impossible.
One of the main critiques of schools that I hear is that they need to be "more like the private sector" when they are running their school districts. This is true in one regard. Superintendents need to start acting like the CEOs they are instead of the educator that many were trained to be.
The job of school superintendent can be brutal. It includes long hours at the office, high levels of public scrutiny, a labor face to keep engaged and building a management team that meets high-level expectations, all while over seeing a multimillion-dollar budget.
Superintendents must embrace this reality instead of running from it. Many school districts are the largest employers in their community. The decisions they make not only impact children but many taxpaying members of their community as well. Here are a couple of ways that school Superintendents can embrace their CEO mentality that will help them and their school district succeed:
1. Make no apology for hiring a leadership team. A good team can save the taxpayers money. A bad one can cost significant dollars. Superintendents must have and justify a good team that supports student learning and the bottom line.
2. Tell the story of your vision. The days of a traditional public school being a given no longer exist. A good CEO needs to tell the story of where their organization is going and how they can get there. Superintendents need to do the same. They need to tell their story and they need to tell it often.
3. Celebrate success. When the stock market plummeted five years ago Chase was one of the few banks that weathered the storm. It's CEO, Jamie Dimon, reminded people and the press of this over and over again. Years later when Chase lost billions from one of its overseas bankers, people were not clamoring for Dimon to step down because they remembered the story of Chase's past success in hard economic times.
A school district superintendent will never get paid like a private sector CEO, but that does not mean they should not act like one. Today more than ever, they are the difference makers in a school district's success and failure.