Book Review                                                   Page 48


Thriving as a Superintendent   


How to Recognize and Survive an Unanticipated Departure

by Thomas Evert and Amy Van Deuren, Rowman & Littlefield Education, Lanham, Md., 2013, 130 pp., $40 hardcover, $22.95 softcover

Superintendents spend most of their time on the bubble, and occasionally the bubble bursts. The most common reasons for the board of education and superintendent to divorce, according to the authors of Thriving as a Superintendent, include issues with the board, internal audiences, external publics or the media; disagreement on short-term or long-term goals that create unrest; and the superintendent’s expenditure of political capital on small items that add up to big resentment over time.

While the title is a bit misleading, the subtitle, How to Recognize and Survive an Unanticipated Departure, aptly reflects the content. Authors Thomas Evert and Amy Van Deuren, both university professors with experience in educational leadership and law, have written a well-researched, readable narrative on how to maneuver through an unanticipated departure. And while there are a lot of good insights within the pages, the most utilitarian aspect for superintendents is the “Unanticipated Departure Framework.” This design is patterned after the crisis management model of the National Incident Management System, and rightly so. Superintendents caught in such a situation feel like they are in a crisis.

The authors advise superintendents to think about the permanency of their role in preparation for whatever may happen down the line. Moreover, they encourage administrators to adopt this mindset upon acceptance of the position. Not only does this help develop a mindset for an eventual departure, it helps to manage one’s personal finances, especially when related to issues such as real estate and attorney fees.

In essence, the authors and those interviewed for the book concluded that superintendents should be prepared for the worst.

Thriving as a Superintendent is a detailed, honest look at the position. Though the authors set the context for the superintendency in a generally pessimistic view, it is a realistic one. The work is transparent in its methods of research and provides an abundance of useful information, including two chapters devoted to describing fictionalized superintendents and how they handle various negative situations and a professional literature review. Superintendents will find this book to be an accurate assessment of life in the superintendency.

Reviewed by Art Stellar, vice president, National Education Foundation, Alexandria, Va.


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