Tending To Personal Business: Your Hunt for a New Superintendency


Superintendents don’t need reminders about the frequent turnover in their ranks. Sadly, it’s the norm today.

As such, you would be wise to pay attention to your own personal development by keeping career plans, networks, job-seeking strategies and biographical materials up-to-date. Job searches that are hastily thrown together appear as such. As administrators, you have seen futile attempts at meeting deadlines and know full well that ill-prepared applications are quickly set aside.

Whether a school board hires a consultant to aid it in the search for a new superintendent, relies on the incumbent to assist them or conducts the search itself, board members are inclined to ask some basic questions: "What are we looking for in our new superintendent?" "Will we require experience as a superintendent?" "How can we assess characteristics such as honesty and integrity?" "What are our priorities relative to skills in cost containment, community relations, consensus building and other important dimensions?"

A Running Start
Applicants who are attuned to the board’s most critical questions will have a leg up over applicants who expect just their strengths and sincere interest in a position to advance their candidacy. Those who can obtain inside information about the particulars of a vacancy through their network of colleagues will be able to address specific questions in their application materials and be ready to respond thoughtfully during interviews.

Those who are attracted to superintendent openings in other states must pay close attention to certification and endorsement. Each state sets its own requirements for admitting superintendents, principals and teachers into practice.

Superintendents who are job hunting would be wise to find out how the job search is being conducted. If board members are relying on a consultant, the single most important decision an applicant can make at the outset is to check out the consultant's record, just as they would that of a potential employee. Ask if the consultant has a preselected group of administrative candidates who form the core of nominees suggested by the consultant whenever a vacancy arises. Find out if the consultant nominates a few of the same individuals over and over for administrative positions. Determine what level of input the board will have from beginning to end of the selection process.

Also, find out if the consultant paid attention to the certification and endorsement of candidates. Professional consultants are always upfront with board members about a state's requirements for certification and endorsement for the superintendency and recommend the most qualified candidates. Expert consultants never will recommend applicants who cannot be certified in the particular state.

Preparing for the Hunt
If you must launch a job search, set aside the time for the multiple tasks that will contribute to an effective search for a new superintendency:

  • Draft a model letter of application that can be reworded to meet a specific vacancy.

  • Update your résumé and be prepared to reword it to match a specific vacancy notice.

  • Pursue vacancy notices that match your interests and developmental needs.

  • Find out the board's selection criteria for each vacancy notice. Check how the criteria for a vacant superintendency matches your own strengths, interests and skills.

  • Gather information on the screening process used by each board.

  • Weigh your potential for a successful application among your most preferred positions.

  • Set priorities for your job search according to your criteria (size of district, location, attraction of the community, record of longevity of previous superintendents, etc.).

  • Prepare information on your career that tries to match each board's expectations.

  • Track the influence of consultants in hiring decisions.

  • Weigh your career goals with personal ones.

  • Determine your status with respect to certification and endorsement requirements for the superintendency in each state with a vacancy that interests you.

  • Tap into your network for background information on each position vacancy that interests you.

  • Estimate the advantages of moving to a particular site.

  • Taking Care of Business
    Above everything else, you need to review your career goals periodically to help you decide whether to enter a job search or remain in your present spot. You want to be prepared to jump into a job search when an appealing vacancy arises or when your board decides to force a search on you.

    Otherwise, consider that now may be the best time to tend to business--the business of your own career.

    Fred Wendel is a professor of educational administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1215 Seaton Hall, Lincoln, Neb. 68588-0638. E-mail: Larry Dlugosh, a former superintendent, is the chair and associate professor of educational administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.