President's Corner                                           Page 42


Promoting From Within



 Amy Sichel

A school district, it’s said, is as stable as its superintendent. Superintendent tenure has been trending upward, from two to three years a decade ago to four to five years recently, according to the Council of the Great City Schools.

“It’s good to see tenure going up,” AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech says. “It’s become very apparent, and the research is strong in that area, that one of the key elements in running a successful district is stability. If you have a revolving door, it’s counterproductive, and there’s never a chance to establish reforms or create programs that make a difference.”

The same can be said about the superintendent’s cabinet. A stable, effective central office can be a strong factor in the success of district programs and student achievement. Districts must ensure they have the best candidates in a recruitment pool, so it is common to perform a nationwide search for the best applicants, as we do in our district. But what about promoting from within?

In the final analysis, what we seek in our administrators is the most-qualified professionals — those who have substantial experience, an excellent track record and the skill set to not only do a great job but to enhance the success of the district and its students.

Hiring administrators from the outside has its benefits. For example, the new administrator brings experiences and skills honed in another district, an outside perspective, proven new ideas, and a counter to old bad habits. When hiring from the outside, we often must make judgments and draw conclusions based on resumes, references and candidates’ interviewing skills.

On the other hand, the internal candidate already has been assessed with regard to qualifications and strengths; has knowledge of the district, its students, staff, culture and community; can hit the ground running in the new position; and possesses an institutional memory that may be valuable.

In addition, when a school district hires from within, another staff member can be promoted to the vacated position. Employees see there is room to grow within the district, and succession and retirement planning are supported.

We have promoted many staff members to management and central-office positions within our district. Because we recognize that in most cases the advantages of promoting from within outweigh hiring external candidates, we created the Aspiring Abington Administrators Academy. The academy is open to professional employees in administrative certification programs who are interested in a career path that could lead to principalships and district managerial positions.

The academy has effectively planted the idea that district personnel have opportunities to advance their careers and that our district encourages this professional growth. In a mini-course format, we provide presentations and materials to enhance participants’ knowledge and skills. We also encourage many of our academy members to take graduate education leadership courses. In several instances, we have agreements with universities to hold sessions on our campus.

Promoting qualified individuals from within has been quite successful for Abington. Our assistant superintendent, future assistant superintendent, director of pupil services, director of curriculum and business manager all have been promoted to these positions from within our organization. In addition, eight of our principals and six of our assistant principals have been promoted from within.

Throughout my own career path — from counselor to psychologist, guidance department chair, director of pupil services, assistant superintendent and now superintendent — I have been delighted to remain in Abington, advancing my skills and experiences and leading by example.

Amy Sichel is AASA president in 2013-14. E-mail: AmySichel@abington.k12.pa.us. Twitter: @AASAPrez13A


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