Leading a successful school district brings its own set of challenges
- District Administration profiles Superintendent Quynh Trueblood, who has led 750 students in the single-building Kohler Public Schools district in Wisconsin for six years, discussing the challenges she faces in leading a small, but successful district.
- Trueblood, a Vietnam native and former English language learner, said there is constant pressure to produce top results, maintain excellence, and break your own records. But she has found implementing social-emotional learning has helped students deal with ordinary stresses ,plus the additional pressure of high parental and personal expectations.
- Trueblood also feels that administrators need to become politically savvy if they are to effectively advocate for teachers and for needed school funding.
The role of school superintendent is a demanding one. For those who lead low-performing districts, the pressure to turnaround that district quickly is enormous. While some are successful in this endeavor by using a holistic approach, many district leaders face greater obstacles in the quest for quick improvement. For some superintendents, such as a former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, this pressure resulted in indictments connected to a test-cheating scandal. And, if something goes horribly wrong in the district, the superintendent will likely face intense scrutiny of his or her decisions, as was the case in Florida this year, after the Parkland shooting.
But superintendents of high-performing districts also face challenges. No one wants to be the one to see test scores fall on their watch. Students in these districts also face additional stresses because of the high expectations of parents and teachers, which is why the superintendent in this article has chosen to focus on social-emotional learning to help students deal with these pressures. For superintendents, the constant pressure to succeed can lead to burn out.
Despite the challenges that superintendents face, a recent report by the Broad Center found that many big-district superintendents stay on the job for longer than most people think. It takes more than just a few years for major initiatives to reap results.That's why great superintendents must pace themselves, focus on the most important issues, and find strategies to help them survive in a demanding, but rewarding, field of service. AASA, the School Superintendents Association recently launched the Leaders Matter campaign to highlight the accomplishments of district leaders. The effort will include success stories and resources to support superintendents in their work.
- District Administration School superintendent breaks her own records