Book Review

The Superintendent’s First Day in the Office

By Debbie Demon-Berger

Reviewed by Rene Townsend
Partner, Leadership Associates,
Encinitas, Calif.

The first day on the job as superintendent, whether it is your first school district or your fifth, is a critical day. The Superintendent’s First Day in the Office, despite the catchy title, offers many more ideas than one could fit into a single day.

Debbie Demmon-Berger, an education writer and editor, has collected wisdom of some experienced and wise superintendents from across the country. The result is a collection of suggestions about what a superintendent should do, or not do, while under the spotlight that shines on that first day.

As the author acknowledges, the ideas are presented in no particular order and not all are of equal importance. Savvy superintendents plan the first day—and beyond—well before setting foot in the district. They know that understanding district culture is crucial so they assess the current culture and build an entry plan with that in mind.

Superintendents can skim the book’s headings, review the lists, read the advice of the superintendents and then choose what to apply. Critical ideas that come through repeatedly are these: Be visible and take every opportunity to listen and learn.

Much of the advice comes from large district superintendents, but it is adaptable for those in smaller districts. Few school districts have a public information officer, and the number of superintendents with assigned drivers is even smaller. However, even the advice in these sections is useful. Superintendents have to think carefully about what to say and when and be able to think on their feet.

(The Superintendent’s First Day in the Office by Debbie Demmon-Berger, ScarecrowEducation, Lanham, Md., 2003, 48 pp., $9.95 softcover. Visit the AASA bookstore to order. AASA members receive a 20 percent discount on Scarecrow titles.)