Firsthand insight about being a superintendent
As an experienced educator, you know how much effort and dedication it takes to provide an effective and enriching learning experience for your students. Throughout your years in the classroom, you’ve grown as a professional and mastered many important competencies that could serve you well in a leadership role. If you’re eager to shape the culture of your school district for the better, you might be well suited to take on the important superintendent responsibilities one day.
Join us as we explore what it’s like being a superintendent with firsthand insight from Dr. Martinrex Kedziora, who was awarded the 2022 Superintendent of the Year for his local region by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA).
What is a superintendent?
A superintendent is essentially the chief executive of a school district. This includes elementary, middle and high schools, plus other publicly funded education programs. Superintendents are hired by community education boards to create and execute a shared vision for their district.
To become a successful school superintendent, you must have a proven record of educational leadership, excellent interpersonal skills, a knack for coalition building and the tenacity to tackle complex problems.
What does a superintendent do?
There is no “average day” for these educational administrators. Superintendent responsibilities will vary depending on the size of the district and the number of students, among other factors. Those in small districts might personally manage certain programs or departments, whereas leaders of large school communities must delegate accordingly.
One thing all superintendent positions have in common is the intense workload. While school leaders follow a 9-to-5 schedule, they also work nights and weekends as needed to get the job done. In general, superintendents can expect to perform all of the following tasks and more year-round:
- Establish and oversee organizational goals, policies and procedures
- Hire and supervise district office staff and principals
- Work with the school board to implement a shared vision
- Maximize student achievement
- Define and meet key performance metrics
- Manage operations and school bus logistics
- Plan and adhere to budgets and financial plans
While the activities listed above are important parts of the job, communication is perhaps the most essential, according to Dr. Kedziora. As the superintendent for the Moreno Valley Unified School District, he oversees the education of about 33,000 students.
Throughout his 41-year career in education, Dr. Kedziora has made it a point to talk to people, get to know them personally and make sure their voices are heard. He stresses that it is particularly important right now during the pandemic.
My main duties are to listen to people, help them build their capacity and make sure they know how important they are to our district.
Good superintendents are liaisons who effectively communicate important information and facilitate conversations with a variety of stakeholders, including:
- Students and their families
- Teachers, principals and educational staff
- Operations and administration staff
- Press and media
- School board
- Community organizations
- Government agencies
Guiding schools through times of crisis
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has put a huge strain on the education system. For many children pre-Coronavirus, school was their only safe and predictable environment. But everything changed with the onset of the pandemic.
Superintendent responsibilities suddenly expanded to include making hard decisions about masking, social distancing and remote learning in order to protect students and staff. The virus also exacerbated existing teacher shortages across the country, making it even harder to keep classrooms adequately resourced.
While Dr. Kedziora’s wealth of experience certainly helped him lead a school district through a global pandemic, nothing could have prepared him for the challenges of the last two years. Currently, his school district is still dealing with staff shortages and growing numbers of sick students and staff due to the Omicron variant. According to Dr. Kedziora, everybody needs help and there’s just not enough to go around.
“Right now, we’re still taking it one day at a time,” he admits, recounting the prior week when his district had 100 classrooms without teachers. Dr. Kedziora manages substitutes and has made it a habit to personally reach out to people every single evening. He’s even been subbing in classrooms himself nearly every day.
“The pandemic has changed my philosophy from perfectionist to realist,” he asserts. “Before Coronavirus, I was concerned about things like academics, test scores, student achievement, etc. It’s different now. I’m more worried about people, their lives, their experiences and frankly — their survival.”
How to become the school leader your community needs
Because the role of superintendent carries so much responsibility and requires mastery of many skills, educators must work their way up the position. Many aspiring administrators start as classroom teachers, earn a master’s degree and serve as a department head or school principal before deciding to pursue the top leadership role.
While there’s no singular path to becoming a superintendent, there are important credentials you’ll need in order to be qualified for the job.
- Lead a school as a principal
- Earn a doctoral degree — typically an Ed.D. or Ph.D. in education
- Pass state exams and obtain superintendent licensure
Upon completing the steps above, you’re ready to look for open positions and secure a job as a superintendent.
Set your sights on being a superintendent
A successful superintendent can make all the difference in a school district’s ability to support student achievement and well-being. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with the role, but it’s equally rewarding to see students and staff thrive.
If you’re up for the challenge and are ready to plan your next steps on the road to being a superintendent, it may be time to start exploring your education options. To learn more about the differences between an Ed.D. and a Ph.D., check out our article “5 Ways educators can benefit from a doctorate in organizational leadership."
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