School Boards

How to Hire a Superintendent Who Will Stick Around

Commentary

Five pitfalls in hiring district leaders and how to avoid them

By

Cathy Mincberg

The average superintendent tenure is approximately three years in urban districts and six years in suburban districts, according to a 2014 Council of the Great City Schools survey, and those time spans make it hard to develop and institute significant improvements. While some factors shortening superintendent tenure are beyond control, many other factors are manageable. Here are some common pitfalls your local school board must circumnavigate when choosing new district leadership:

1. A mismatch between district and leader.

Too often, boards hire based solely on

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Feuding Superintendents and School Boards Struggle to Make Amends

Legal battles mar relationships

When a rocky relationship between a superintendent and school board winds up in court, it can lead to the awkwardness of divorce—akin to a feuding couple living together, with their children stuck in the middle.

As the relationship breaks down, it’s pretty common for superintendents to hit the escape hatches in their contracts, through resignation or retirement, or for members to get voted on or off school boards as tensions air out.

What’s more uncommon, though, are sitting superintendents who sue the school board members who can hire, and in most cases, fire them. Conversely, it’s

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School Boards Must Narrow Their Focus

Commentary

By

Cathy Mincberg

School boards have a difficult task. They are expected to oversee a vast number of details for their districts: handle business operations, decide which e-tablets to buy, keep constituents happy, and spend hundreds of hours dealing with such mundane issues as choosing between paper towels and hand dryers for school restrooms. It’s no wonder school boards find it hard to focus on what really matters.

I spent 14 years serving on the Houston Independent School District’s board of education. I cared so much about improving educational outcomes for children and, yet, accomplished so little. As the

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The Problem With Our School Boards

Commentary

By

John Mannes

In February, members of the Montgomery County, Md., board of education—representing the 17th-largest school district in the United States, one located in the backyard of the nation’s capital—approved a departure agreement for the system’s prominent, one-term superintendent, Joshua P. Starr.

Starr had been a highly sought administrator. He was a candidate, in late 2013, for the chancellorship of the New York City public schools. While in Montgomery County, he increased the prevalence of technology and the use of project-based learning, and worked to identify key indicators for potentially at-risk students. Moreover, he had championed new

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School Boards – Education Week

Report Roundup

“Does School Board Leadership Matter?”

Districts that “beat the odds” academically have school board members who are focused narrowly on improving student learning, according to a new report.

The report, produced by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington-based education research and advocacy group, looked at survey data from 900 school board members in 417 districts to examine how board members’ characteristics and knowledge link up with districts’ success at producing higher-than-expected student achievement.

The study also found that:

• Most board members possess accurate information about their districts;

• Board members’ political beliefs seem to affect

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