This past Friday afternoon right after the ending school bell in the high schools rang (high schools end last of all levels) teachers in my district received an email from the system superintendent announcing that she took a position with the Department of Public Instruction.
People may debate on how effective a superintendent was / is in the office of leading the local public school system. Honestly, I could not imagine many jobs that are harder to perform while pleasing a majority of the stakeholders.
A system superintendent is hired by the local school board, whose makeup is determined by the voters who in some capacity have a stake in the public schools: parents, teachers, taxpayers, employers, etc.
The superintendent has to be able to bridge relationships between the state and the local, between the community and the schools, and between teachers and those who can support them. But mostly the super has to always keep in mind that his/her mission is student-centered.
It’s always about improving conditions and outcomes for students.
Yet, we need a new superintendent of public schools, and while I may never be asked by those who choose what I as a veteran teacher might want to look for in a new super, I can use this platform.
And I will.
- I want a superintendent who praises the growth of students and is not solely focused on “proficiency.” Growth means that students are learning. Proficiency in this state means that you are meeting a moving target that you have no control over setting.
- I want a superintendent who recognizes that he / she will be serving a district in which well over %20 of the students live in poverty and that poverty is the major obstacle for so many students. Maybe there should be a “proficiency” set for making sure that students’ needs are met outside the classroom. Maybe the new superintendent could fight for more wraparound services.
- I want a superintendent not afraid of telling Raleigh that its practices do not serve our students well. Speaking out for the district can do so much for morale and building bridges with the community. Think of the class-size chaos. Think of the school performance system. Think of all of the testing. Think of the budgeting and lower per pupil expenditures when adjusted for inflation. Think of needed professional development funding. Think of textbooks.
- I want a superintendent not afraid of going to government officials and “asking” for what is needed to not only build a first-class system, but keep it growing.
- I want a superintendent who goes to teachers inside of the classrooms to see what schools and students need most. Seeking input from teachers and really listening to what they say about conditions and needs will go a long way.
- I want a superintendent who sees the need to make sure that all special-needs students have their needs met and are able to access as much of what other students are able to experience.
- I want a superintendent not afraid to “call out” DPI and state officials when bills and statutes hurt a school system’s ability to service the needs of students.
- I want a superintendent who does not look at the school system as a business, but as a public good.
- I want a superintendent who can find multiple reasons to praise any student, any teacher, and any school in this district.
- I want a superintendent who is accessible, can take constructive criticism, and knows what a classroom is really like.
Our students deserve that.