Positive Superintendent-Board Relationship Starts Now!

Focus on the Classroom by Rosanne Winter

The new Collier County School Board that will be seated in a few weeks will face a challenge common to such boards, particularly one that will be charged with selecting a new organizational leader. That is, once our new superintendent is in place, the Board will need to remember that it must fully support, encourage and help ensure the success of the new leader, but that it must do that without micromanaging.

Under Florida law, and also under the dictates of common business practice, the School Board is a policy-making body. It’s job today in Collier County is to ensure that a strong strategic plan is in place and that the school system’s operating policies, values and goals have been clearly defined (with the extensive input of local citizens, school personnel, parents and others, of course). Then it must select a new leader who proactively embraces the established policies, plans, values and goals, and who also will work collaboratively with the Board to modify them as needed through time.

A critical task for the Board will be creation of an effective system for ongoing evaluation of the new superintendent, using performance goals that have specific and measurable target outcomes. With that system in place, what the new superintendent will need most is the ongoing advice and support of the Board. And, he or she will need – and should be able to expect – for the Board to back off a bit, get out of the way, let him or her do the job within the district’s established framework of policies and practices!

A school system is a huge and complex business enterprise, the business being the education of our children and their preparation for success in life. Individual schools are like small cities, with physical and intellectual infrastructure, transportation systems, hundreds of employees and sometimes thousands of students with wildly varying interests and capabilities.

It is the superintendent’s job to provide effective oversight of all this and to challenge everyone within the enterprise to reach, always, for excellence. It is the School Board’s job to make overall policies and see that they are followed, and to ensure that the superintendent has the resources to get the job done. While the Board should provide advice to the school leader when asked and direction when needed, it is NOT the Board’s job to serve as proxy operating officers within the school system.

The relationship between the School Board and recent Collier superintendents often has been rocky. The Board sometimes has gotten more involved than it should have in school operational issues, even as the superintendent has veered inappropriately into policy-making. Carried out correctly, however, the upcoming search for a new Collier superintendent will draw numerous qualified candidates who have excellent experience, knowledge, leadership skills, and personal attributes including a collaborative attitude that would serve them well and calm the waters of the Board-superintendent relationship.

The Board’s job is to find and hire that right person. Then it must make sure that it does nothing to prevent him or her from providing a first-rate educational environment for our children.

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