President's Corner                                           Page 47


Navigating the Superintendency



 Amy Sichel

Fortunately for most of us, when we became superintendents, we had previous experience in educational administration as a principal or member of the superintendent’s cabinet. But, regardless of past experiences, when we began our tenure as superintendent, we asked ourselves, “Where do I start?”

I don’t need to tell you the superintendency truly is a complex job. Nationally, the average tenure of superintendents is three to five years; fortunately, the average tenure seems to be increasing. That’s important because, according to some, a superintendent needs at least five years in the role to establish appropriate goals, manage change effectively and see that changes and advances are working toward greater student achievement and success.

Early in my superintendency, an Abington school board member implored me to actively participate in local, state and national professional organizations and conferences. This had not been a widespread practice in our school district. The board member’s rationale for my participation included enhancing my professional development, taking advantage of networking and consulting opportunities with my peers and colleagues, gaining exposure to advanced and successful educational and managerial concepts and strategies, and sharing Abington’s successes and challenges with other superintendents.

As an administrator dedicated to our students, staff and the community, I followed the advice of this insightful board member. As a result, I took on leadership roles in regional, then state and then national organizations, culminating with my service this year as your president of AASA. Along the way, I was privileged to meet and learn from several educational thought leaders and learn about many strategies that have been incorporated into and now contribute to the success of the Abington School District.

Over the years, I have benefited from the advice and example of other superintendents and administrators and have developed a Top 10 Plus 1 list of ideas and actions that help me navigate the superintendency. Here they are in no particular order:

My Top 10 Plus 1
1. Establish and maintain an excellent relationship and teamwork approach with your school board by communicating your goals, accomplishments and challenges openly and on a regular basis.

2. Ensure the safety of your schools because students need a safe environment in which to learn.

3. Establish and commit to district goals and personal goals to advance student success.

4. Attend and learn from conferences, courses and seminars.

5. Present at conferences and teach aspiring educational leaders. Someday they might become your next principals or assistant superintendents.

6. Establish professional and friendly communications with colleagues and share with them often.

7. Build, direct, mentor and empower your professional staff by supporting them and encouraging them to excel.

8. Work with your board and staff to understand and manage the financial stability of your district.

9. Recognize and share that schools are the barometer and heartbeat of the community by being an involved and enthusiastic participant, sounding board, leader and resource.

10. Take some time for yourself with your family and friends!

Plus 1: Make your AASA membership valuable by participating in AASA conferences, seminars and activities. AASA is your organization. It is here to help you advance your knowledge and success, for AASA is the premier advocacy group and voice for public education.

Amy Sichel is AASA president for 2013-14. E-mail: AmySichel@Abington.k12.pa.us


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