The varied and complex roles of administrators can generally be placed under two categories: management and leadership. The best superintendents do both very well.
Management matters. No one cares what your vision of leadership is if the roof is leaking, bus schedules don’t work, the bills don’t get paid and rooms aren’t clean. A big part of being an excellent leader is making sure all of the departments in a district run smoothly. School leaders have to be well versed in a huge array of areas and even turn to specialists for help when necessary.
Leaders are wise to use as many professional development opportunities as possible at service centers and through a variety of educational associations, including TASA, to make sure they can adequately master the management of a large organization.
Leadership matters, too. Communities hire superintendents because they want their schools to be the best they can be. Parents want their children to receive the best education possible, and that requires school leaders to constantly look for ways to improve their systems. Visionary leaders recognize that the demands of the workforce are changing, and therefore, the experiences we give our students must also change.
This is no easy task, and it looks different in each unique community. However, when leaders collaboratively engage their local communities and staff in helping to define the needs, desires and dreams for their schools, great things can happen. I know this because I see evidence of exemplary management and leadership as I travel across the great state of Texas.
One group of visionary leaders are those participating in TASA’s Future-Ready Superintendent Leadership Network (FRSLN). These dedicated leaders design three experiences in different school districts across the state each year and sometimes visit innovative companies. They don’t hire someone to come and give presentations where they would learn passively. Rather, they actively share the work they are doing with each other to help dramatically improve their own districts.
This is a “community of learners” made up of practitioners who have anchored their work to the TASA visioning document. Whether it’s designing facilities for the 21st century, providing instructional coaching supports for teachers, figuring out how best to use or not use technology, or appropriately addressing social and emotional issues with students, these administrators are honing their craft and tailoring the best ideas they find to the unique needs of their schools.
For the past three years, FRSLN has thrived with more than 150 leaders taking part. Due to a large demand, we will look to expand membership in FRSLN next year. If you feel ready to learn from great, visionary leaders who are practitioners in the field as well as share the exemplary work you are doing in your district, FRSLN might be for you. It was one of the most powerful learning experiences I ever had as a superintendent—because I was learning from all of you.
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