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The Magnitude of the Job of Superintendents

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Having served as a superintendent for 16 years in Kentucky I can say without hesitation that it is both the most rewarding and toughest job anyone can imagine. John Maxwell, a leading author on leadership, sums it up well when he says, "Everything rises and falls on leadership." The role of the district leader cannot be overstated - everything that happens in a school district is affected by the decisions made by the individual in this leadership position. As I have worked in training programs for new superintendents the last several years, I've emphasized to the new leaders that they have ultimate responsibility for everything that happens in their complex districts.

What are some of those responsibilities and the complexities (Superman Syndrome) that surround them?

· Student Achievement - As the ultimate instructional leader for a district, the superintendent must take responsibility for the improvement or decline of student achievement.

· Largest Employer - School districts are frequently the largest employer in a county or city. Superintendents are ultimately responsible for the performance (and behavior) of the district's employees.

· Largest Transportation Systems - School districts often have the largest mass transit system in a county or city, and the buses are carrying the most precious cargo.

· Largest Number of Buildings - Districts have multiple sites which they must maintain, repair and sometimes replace. HVAC, roofing, landscaping, painting, concrete work, playgrounds maintenance are just a few examples of things that need attention.

· Largest Food Service Operation - In most cities, the school district's cafeterias serve the most people every day.

· Large Constituency - School districts work with a large number of constituents, and diversity of opinions is the norm.

· After-School Programs - Many districts have the largest day care programs in an area.

· Budgets -- Often, school districts have the largest budgets of any entity in its area. Managing everything from payroll to purchasing is another huge task.

Each of these, taken separately, represents a major responsibility. But viewing them as an entire package makes it easier to understand the magnitude of what is expected from the leaders of our public schools. I share this with you so we can reflect on the vast amount of work schools do every day for our kids. As advocates it is important that we work with schools to help develop solutions to the very complex problems they face.

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