The local school board, as a body of locally elected representatives, serves as a critical link between our public schools and communities. This uniquely American institution is responsible for the education of all children within its geographic jurisdiction – often serving multiple towns, villages or cities – and students of different backgrounds, abilities, interests and needs.
Boards have the authority, granted by state law, to carry out a number of governing activities essential to the operation of its schools – raising taxes, hiring personnel and establishing policies. As a governing body, it needs to focus on the big picture, articulating a vision and allocating resources that reflects the community it serves.
School boards make important decisions at every meeting but none is more important than the selection of a superintendent, or person responsible for managing the day-to-day operation of the district.
It is easy to see why this is such a critical leadership role. In this era of higher academic standards and strengthened school accountability, superintendents are the chief executive officers at the forefront of New York State’s school improvement efforts. Ultimately, their leadership can literally change the lives of their students and staff, and transform their schools and community.
Several of our local school boards are just starting their search for new superintendents. I am pleased to be part of a team at Questar III facilitating the work of the Catskill, Ichabod Crane and Schodack school boards. As component districts of Questar III, each of these boards receive our consulting service at no additional cost (districts do have to pay for the cost of advertising and printing based on its desired scope of recruitment).
As part of our service, we work with the board to plan the process and scope of their search process with great care and attention to detail. This is done through dialogue and reflection so that the specific needs of the district can be met with the most effective search strategies and considerations. Because each district is unique, each school board must consider local circumstances and needs to find a leader who is a “fit” for their community.
This process takes time and asking the right questions – both of the board and those applying to the job. This is why we begin with asking the board (and greater community) to reflect on their expectations for a new superintendent as well as some of the greatest needs and challenges facing the district (and its next leader). This is also why we end with having the board reflect on the qualities they’re seeking and developing questions that will clarify whether candidates meet their criteria for success.
This work, like all of our other programs and services, embodies the reason why we exist as a BOCES – changing lives, realizing dreams and doing together what can’t be done alone. In the end, our job is not to select a leader for the district but rather to help guide processes to assist the board in making its decision – the most important action it will make as a governing body.
Looking ahead, I expect to see the number of vacancies to increase as more of our superintendents look to retire. If asked, we stand ready to assist our local boards.
Whether a school board chooses the BOCES, does a search on their own, or contracts with a search consultant, I encourage residents to follow the process and to reflect on the significant role superintendents play in their school communities.
Each one needs a new superintendent ready and able to assume this awesome responsibility – one squarely focused on expanding the community of interest in its schools and fulfilling the promise of the future for all of its students. This means finding someone who is the right fit as much as qualified from an educational or experiential point-of-view.
On behalf of Questar III, we look forward to our continued work with the Catskill, Ichabod Crane and Schodack school boards. We also look forward to visiting all of our boards during the 2016-2017 school year.