What Is A Superintendent Of Schools?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

It is often said that the most important role of a board of education is to hire its superintendent. I think that is a somewhat a valid claim. Certainly if you value public education, you must have competent leadership managing the daily operations of the school district. A good superintendent leads the districts educational, financial and administrative performance; facilitates the performance of all personnel; and responds to and informs stakeholders and policymakers about the performance and leadership of the district. 

Having met many, if not most, superintendents of schools here in Tennessee, I believe we do have some excellent leaders across our state. Probably one of the most important duties of the superintendent is to make sure district students are learning and achieving at the highest level possible. A superintendent must understand effective academic practices and be supportive of the teachers and administrators in the district. Leadership, vision, and strategic thinking are critical skills for every superintendent. A successful superintendent is should also be an effective and excellent communicator. If the only voice a superintendent listens to is his/her own, or a few members of the school board, public education will eventually lose community support. 

In the last few years, I have seen some horrifying treatment of superintendents across the state. I have seen them maligned by anonymous message boards, attacked in the media, belittled by their own school board members, often unfairly. I am reminded of Mark Twain’s quote: “Great minds talk about ideas; good minds talk about events; small minds talk about people.” 

Does that mean that we simply accept decisions from superintendents, without challenging them? Of course not! We must particularly hold them accountable in regard to educational, financial and administrative performance. However, we should provide them latitude in regards to leadership, vision and strategic thinking on how to address the performance in those areas. And we must expect them to communicate effectively to all stakeholders. 

The American Association of School Administrators suggests that the superintendent, like principals, must also demonstrate a keen understanding of teaching, learning and what works for students. As a change leader, a successful superintendent should emphasize the efficient use of resources, personnel, and data to break down resistance and drive systemic change; empower board and personnel to set goals, measure results, develop accountability, and support planning, evaluation, and resource allocation. 

Our state has made some incredible strides in public education. It is an accomplishment that we should admire and respect. It begins with the men and women in the classroom across this state, and we must also acknowledge the hard work of those who lead our schools. 

J.C. Bowman
Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville



No Tears From John Brennan Losing Security Clearance

John Brennan will have his national security clearance revoked. Mr Brennan and the POTUS have engaged in a battle royal over the issue.  I’ve never had a national security clearance personally but in my medical career I did have computer access to records for the two largest hospitals in the region. When I left my positions with those hospitals my computer access was revoked.  ... (click for more)

Support Senator Rand Paul's One Penny Budget Reduction Plan

In response to an email I received from Senator Rand Paul (RandPac) on his One Penny Budget Plan, I contacted Senator Alexander’s and Senator Corker’s DC offices to 1) find out their approach to deficit reduction and 2) encourage them to support Senator Paul’s legislation if they don’t have a better approach.  In response, staffers at both senators’ offices stated they did ... (click for more)

Female Inmate Dies At Bradley County Jail Monday

A female inmate was found unresponsive at the Bradley County Jail on Monday afternoon. Correctional officers and on-site medical personnel performed life saving measures, but she was later declared dead after Bradley County EMS arrived.  The inmate was 54-year-old Fawn Zanette Brandham. Correctional officers contacted the 12th Judicial District Attorney's office, ... (click for more)

Federal Appeals Court Rules In Favor Of Family With Down Syndrome Child Who Sued County Schools

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a couple with a Down syndrome child who sued the county schools. The parents of Luka Hyde objected when the county schools tried to move him from his zoned school to a segregated school. The ruling says under federal law that students with disabilities are supposed to be placed in the least restrictive ... (click for more)

GPS Rallies To Clip CCS In Volleyball

There’s nothing quite like the jitters and general nervousness that goes along with playing in front of the home crowd for the first time. Add to that the pressure of making a good impression on a new coach and you can see what the GPS volleyball team was going through Monday evening. Despite all the outside factors and the fact GPS was facing undefeated Chattanooga Christians, ... (click for more)

Grace Rides Momentum To Win Over Lady Bucs

Volleyball games are often times hinged on one single point late in a match.   Monday  night, however, in a hard-fought battle between Division II Class A East foes Grace Baptist Academy and Boyd-Buchanan the turning point happened early in the second game in what eventually became a 3-1 (22-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-16) victory for the visiting Lady Eagles. ... (click for more)