Book Review

Achieving Success for New and Aspiring Superintendents

A Practical Guide

by Mary Frances Callan and William Levinson, Corwin, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2011, 328 pp., $40.95 softcover


The book’s title says it all. This is a practical guide for those at the beginning stage of a superintendency. Authors Mary Callan and William Levinson are veteran superintendents who show themselves to be astute, introspective and reflective practitioners who went to school learning from their successes and difficulties.



Between them, the authors filled seven superintendencies, totaling 37 years, at the helm of California school districts that ranged in size from 1,000 to 13,000 students.

Levinson today conducts national superintendent searches, so he brings that perspective to Achieving Success for New and Aspiring Superintendents.

The authors describe this book as a “how-to primer,” and they start with the assumption that anyone thinking about a move into the superintendency should ask himself or herself many preliminary questions before embarking on this quest. From my perspective as a former superintendent in three districts over 17 years, these questions resonated as true.

The book is easy to read, logically constructed and thorough. The 10 chapters include: “Becoming a Superintendent”; “Transitioning to Your New District”; “Moving the District Forward”; “Completing Year One, Planning Year Two”; “Working With the School Board”; “Working With Employee Groups”; “Negotiating Agreements”; and “Communicating.”

I used this book last summer in my school district leadership classes at my college. I applaud the authors for sharing their experiences, their wisdom and their special insights with anyone contemplating a superintendent job, which continues to be one of the toughest in America.

Reviewed by Perry Berkowitz, coordinator of education leadership programs, College of Saint Rose, Albany, N.Y.