Rural superintendent leverages home field advantage to bring 21st Century learning to district
- Superintendent Buddy Berry took the helm of his hometown’s one-school district in Eminence, KY, in 2010 and has wrought substantive change by building a new school building, increasing enrollment, better preparing students for survival in college and offering new opportunities to students through community partnerships, Edutopia reports.
- Berry was able to gain support for a modest tax hike to fund a new “Edhub” school building designed for 21st Century learning, featuring eight makerspaces, robotics and design thinking labs, a library of power tools, and the ability to earn microcredentials in certain skills.
- The school district has also worked to better prepare students to go to and stay in college by offering a stronger curriculum and the option for students to pursue an early college track within the walls of the existing school.
Berry seems to accomplished a great deal in his district within a fairly short time. However, it seems that Berry may have also had a home field advantage since he was working in his own hometown. One of the main characteristics of an effective school superintendent, according to Derrick Meador of ThoughtCo, is that he or she “must be adept at establishing working relationships with many interest groups inside the school and within the community itself to maximize their effectiveness. Building a strong rapport with the constituents in the district makes fulfilling the required roles of a school superintendent a little easier.”
Though being able to choose a superintendent with this advantage is not a common occurrence, similar results can be found if school superintendents have worked for several years within their districts. For example, when Superintendent Carrie VanAlstine took on her role after spending eight years as the Ball-Chatham School District’s assistant school superintendent, she was well-prepared for the challenge.
“It gives me an advantage to walk in the door and know exactly where we are,” Van Alstine said. “Not only to know the faces and the names, but also to know what our history is in the district, what our areas are that we’ve focused on in the past, so that I can know what our next steps need to be.”
The average tenure of a school superintendent is just over three years. In most areas, this is simply not enough time to develop the meaningful relationships that can lead to strong community support and strong community partnerships, which are so vital to success. School districts have an advantage when they can retain school districts longer or build strong leadership pipelines within the district.