Here’s another question from the NYS Superintendent Development Program. Anyone else out there want to add a few bits of advice for our new colleagues?
What are the most important “first-steps” a superintendent should take in a new district? First position?
Is it enough for me to just say “shut up and listen”? That’s largely what I would recommend. Okay, don’t shut up but instead use the time in the conversation when you’re talking to ask good questions. This is a time to learn as much about the organization as possible. Try hard to check your assumptions at the door, to listen to EVERYONE not just those who clamor to put their words in your ear first. Keep your door open and take time for anyone willing to walk through it.
Everyone will tell you that the first steps you take should be to build relationships with people. Getting to know everyone in the organization is important, most especially your BOE members, Admin Team and union leadership. Again, listen and learn. Every organization is unique and if you’re going to lead effectively, you’ve got to give and earn respect. That comes only one way that I know and that’s by telling the truth and following through on your word. Do both consistently.
Work hard to shut up about two things. 1. Your previous school. Saying “at ___________ District” may be your point of reference but it doesn’t get you far with those in your new district. 2. Your judgment of the previous superintendent. It’s not helpful to pass judgment on the decisions made before you were there. You’re just like everyone else who’s Monday morning quarterbacking her decisions–you weren’t there, you don’t have all of the information she did and you aren’t qualified to second guess her.
Learn the detail of the job by asking questions. Take care of yourself along the way. Don’t neglect your health, your fitness or your family.