The new job: Tailored fit or misfit?; Vital signs for a move range from board’s confirmation vote to state of bathroom cleanliness

The new job: Tailored fit or misfit?; Vital signs for a move range from board’s confirmation vote to state of bathroom cleanliness – school superintendents share their experiences

Ruth E. Sternberg

Terry Grier thought he had it worked out.

In 1995, the former Akron superintendent had landed the top job in Sacramento, Calif.–one of the country’s 75 largest school districts with 51,000 students. He thought he had ironed out the rules of his relationship with his new school board.

Yet 17 months into his tenure, Grier butted heads with board members. One night at a private meeting a majority of the panel, unhappy with Grier’s hiring decisions, voted to terminate his contract, offering him $180,000 to leave.

The decision–made by four of a seven-member board–was like a surprise attack.

“We had very clear discussions about role differentiations and responsibilities,” says Grier, who had handled tough union negotiations in Akron and weathered conflict with a predecessor who was elected to that school board. “This would be my job and that would be their job.”

Yet Sacramento board members wanted to examine his list of recommended hirings in detail. They wanted to bring in different people to replace those he had suggested. Grier questioned these candidates’ personal relationships to the board members. One of them–hired after Grier’s departure to head the personnel department–had been a board member’s friend since college.

Today, Grier is superintendent of the 63,000-student Guilford County School District in Greensboro, N.C., and much happier. He freely shares advice with colleagues.

“Don’t take a job just for the money,” he says. “You get into job searches, and just because someone will pay you $10,000 more, you want the job. Or you’re being recruited. But it’s all about fit.”

Homework Helps

In an era of superintendent shortages, moving up to a bigger and better job seems deceptively simple. Offers to highly qualified administrators are full of perks and seem to hold challenges that could catapult a school leader’s reputation. But the pitfalls of the top position also can end a chief administrator’s career. Disputes with board members and the endless task of bringing the public on board to make changes can result in irreparable conflicts.

With superintendent vacancy almost approaching the divorce rate–due to unnaturally high expectations that go along with the job and the bulge of retirement-eligible administrators–experienced educators say even the most seasoned school leader can get reeled into a job that doesn’t work out.

Veteran superintendents and search consultants offer words of caution. Do your homework, from both far and near. Find out as much as you can beforehand, then confirm your findings in the personal interview. Learn to read the signs of a potentially bad relationship. When it is time to sign a contract, make sure it is specific and complete.

Jerry Klenke, deputy executive director of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators in Columbus, Ohio, counsels: “The person has to know him or herself really well. [Those looking] need to understand that there are three areas that usually are involved in a position like this. Probably the least important is the technical expertise. Relationships are probably the most important. And a close second now and gaining momentum is the bottom-line organizational results. The whole accountability issue and the fact that it’s much more clearly defined now than ever before.”

Doyle Scott, superintendent of the 900-student East Marshall district in Oilman, Iowa, who held the top post in the smaller Lenox, Iowa, district, observes: “Each district has its own personality. You want to find a district that matches your personality. I view it kind of like a marriage. You’re looking for a district that fits you.

Independent Legwork

The work of the potential match begins before the application is complete, with a good look at the school district’s vital statistics. A search firm can aid in collecting information about budgets, demographics and district goals. But consultants, who are being paid by the school board, shouldn’t be the only avenue. A little legwork and some commonsense questioning can reveal problems and help candidates form questions about a district’s health.

“Certainly people can look at many different types of information they can gain about the district, says Klenke, a former Ohio superintendent. The history and demographics of the school district. Population–are those changing or in flux? Really analyzing the community and the multiple entities that make up the district. And student demographics, whether or not there are growth patterns.

He points, for example, to the unique challenge facing Columbus, Ohio, which is attracting Hmong and Somali populations. “Those are not the things people are prepared to deal with,” he says.

Ann Roy Moore, superintendent in Hunstville, Ala., who worked her way up through the ranks and returned to lead the community where she started her career, suggests asking districts seeking to a hire a new superintendent for some of their own materials.

“Look at videotapes of school board meetings to get a feel for what has been going on,” Moore says. “Find our why the former superintendent is not there anymore. Find out what local support you get from the citizens. Look at how the kids do and what scholarships they get. Do businesses work with the schools? Are the PTAs active? Do kids get awards?”

Ken DeBenedictis, superintendent of New Hampshire’s 2,700-student Hollis-Brookline district near the Massachusetts border, says he looked at the demographic trends and housing starts when he’s been ready to make a career move.

“It would tell you something about whether people are coming to the district or moving out,” says DeBenedictis, who had served as an assistant superintendent in a Boston suburb before moving into his first superintendency.

Walls Tell All

Sometimes, a simple look in the Yellow Pages can tell a candidate a lot.

“What businesses are there?” says Scott, the superintendent in Gilman, Iowa. “In one town there were five flourishing bars in a town of 1,200 people. It tells you something about the community.”

He has considered jobs in at least 10 districts, and he took some advance trips.

“I’d find somebody who knows the school really well,” he says. “It could be somebody in the department of education. One time, I could only find two people, and nobody could say anything good about the district. As I recall, that district had several buildings that were antiquated in several different towns, and they couldn’t get the people to replace the buildings because they were trying to protect their turf.”

Scott brings his wife in on the process. The couple has five daughters, and as parents the pair has had plenty of personal experience with schools and teachers.

“We took [a look at] all the schools where I’d interviewed. I asked her to look for certain things. I’d have her go into the women’s restrooms looking for graffiti and problems like that. I’d have her take a look at elementary school classrooms. She would be more attuned to looking at what’s on the bulletin board. That’s evidence of the type of teaching going on.”

Before accepting the superintendency in Longmeadow, Mass., Tom McGarry built on his research by creatively sampling the tenor of the community.

He knew from his contact with a search consultant that the community “had always had high achievement, and even in tough times had kept their priorities in maintaining small class size and maintaining programs in the arts. It was clear they were looking for someone with an academic background. They were interested in someone who knew the academics and who could be part of the very inclusive process that is education in New England communities.”

But McGarry wanted a closer look. He toured the area, calling on real estate agents, asking to look at homes, but mentioning nothing of his pending job.

“I like to see what the housing stock is like, and as I’m doing that talk to the people whose homes I visit to see how they feel about the school district,” McQarry said.

Revealing Insights

Mort Sherman wanted to find out more about how “real people” felt about the schools in Cherry Hill, N.J., where he now works. He was seeking to move from the smaller South Orangetown, N.Y., district–even though his board offered him a raise to stay–and wanted to ensure he would find an amicable community.

Though he had met the Cherry Hill board–all nine of whom had traveled to meet him–Sherman sought out the perspective of someone who was working every day at the classroom level.

“Kind of surreptitiously, without revealing I was a candidate, I went on-line and found the swim coach’s e-mail,” says Sherman, whose daughter is a swimmer. “He wrote back and told me all about the community and told me about the team. It was really very gracious. People had great pride in the school district.”

DeBenedictis, who was contemplating a move from a suburb northeast of Boston, says he knew what he was looking for before he began accepting invitations for interviews.

“I wasn’t simply interested in any school district. I was looking for a rural suburban school district with a commitment to providing resources. I began investigating statistical information available from the department of education in New Hampshire. I read newspaper articles from the communities as well as from regional papers. I started talking to people who knew something about the district.”

Yet he, too, began digging a little further by talking to key members of the community that had a pending opening. DeBenedictis found out that growth in the district’s congruent communities, located in the southern tier of New Hampshire, was the cause of local tension.

“The district was experiencing some problems with constructing facilities. The two communities were not working in a collaborative way to building a high school,” he says. “So what could be an opportunity for excellent education was not being realized.”

Independent Observers

Grier likes to pick the brains of those who are closest to district operations, but who don’t have as large a political stake in them. It’s a bold step, but he believes it gives him an insider’s point of view.

“If you really want to know about the culture of a place, you should talk to someone who’s part of everyday life,” he said. “Ask the superintendent’s secretary and the school public information officer. I’ve called both of those folks and said, ‘I can’t tell you my name, and if you don’t want to talk to me, I won’t push. But I am a finalist and I need to know something to help me in the interview. I will give you my word that no one will ever know we talked.’ I’ve never had it fail.”

Grier says he likes to talk to people who work closely with the school board and who knew the former superintendent.

“Those two positions are really the conscience of the organization,” he says. “I have many times talked to the publisher of the local newspaper. And you have to weigh all this. I’ll set up a portfolio for the district. I’ll develop a matrix and ask everybody the same series of questions.”

The results can sometimes be subtle, Grier says. In Greensboro, such chats told him that the community supported the school district–information that obviously pleased him. But when he asked deeper questions about what changes had occurred or what plans the school board had for change, he found many people did not have a clear idea of what the district’s goals and mission were. For example, a key goal the board had mentioned to him early in the process was closing achievement gaps between students of different backgrounds. Yet he could find no one who could describe a concrete plan to do this.

“It was very interesting,” Grier adds. “There was this feeling they were all working together for this common cause, but my take on this was that they just needed more focus. No one had stopped to ask the hard questions.”

Some superintendents already knew their communities.

Moore had taught in Huntsville and served as an assistant superintendent in a neighboring community. After a seven-year absence, she had returned to become a deputy superintendent. Last year, she found herself a finalist for the top job.

“I’d always been sort of the right-hand person for the superintendents I’d worked for,” she says. “I knew all about Huntsville, and I knew the setup. I’ve worked together on many things. I’ve been one of them, so to speak. The people who work here knew me and trusted me.”

Moore knew that the community was struggling to maintain a long history of academic achievement. Test scores had dropped. But the board was also grappling with the growth of high-tech industry and with occasional budget headaches.

“We needed to work on marketing the district,” she says. “There are a lot of people who don’t know how good we really are.”

Board Uncertainty

Carol Johnson, who had been recruited back to Minneapolis, the scene of her first teaching job, from the smaller neighboring district of St. Louis Park in 1997, faced a tempting offer from Nashville, where she had lived years before. The Nashville board came to her in 2001, and the courtship received heavy media coverage.

“I had gone to college in Nashville and had grown up in a rural community in western Tennessee,” Johnson says. “The state was a known. And I had done my student teaching there. There was somewhat of an emotional pull because it was somewhat like going back home. And you want to make a difference in your home community.”

The Nashville job also offered challenges similar to those she and the Minneapolis board had been working on with a measure of success. In Minneapolis, significant work on closing achievement gaps had led to an increase in test scores and the board’s commitment to further reform. Board members there had spent hours in training workshops, fine-tuning their leadership skills.

In Nashville, the board seemed poised for change, and the panel and community were heavily courting Johnson. “The Nashville community was very vocal about their support of public education. I heard from the mayor and governor and metropolitan council, the people at many universities,” including the chancellor of Vanderbilt University, she says.

Johnson says she was encouraged by the many pledges to form partnerships to help the urban district. “Those are things that were very enticing,” she says.

For both Moore and Johnson, a final decision on a job offer boiled down to the nature of the governing body.

Moore talked to the school board members, even though she thought she knew them. She had questions she wanted to answer for herself.

“Based on the fact that I was already here, I could in my own mind read the board as individuals, and I believe I would be able to interact with that group as a board and as individuals,” she says. “Would they allow me to do my job? And if there were issues that needed to be addressed, did I feel that I had the skills to make some inroads? Did I have the stamina to work on it until we could reach consensus?”

She felt, in the end, she would try.

Johnson paid attention to board voting patterns in Nashville. The panel couldn’t agree at first to hire her. It voted successively 5-4, 7-2 and finally 9-0 to bring her on board. Johnson took that as a sign the board might not be able to agree on other larger matters.

“I think when you go into a school district and the board is asking for significant changes, and when you know you are going to be in a leadership role, that means you are going to interrupt the status quo,” Johnson says. “You want in place a strong support system. You are changing the way people do the work, and that means you are changing some of the people who do the work. Some of the people who have supported board members in the past may be impacted by the changes you’re making.”

Ultimately, Johnson opted for the job where she felt the most secure. She stayed in Minneapolis.

“I felt the board here had done a lot of work with policy governance,” she says. “They were willing to trust me to make decisions and not to micromanage. I thought the board was very sophisticated and mature. Nashville’s board was a very committed board. Very supportive. A lot of parents on the board. But it was less experienced with a lot of new members.”

A Secret Weapon

In several recent surveys, superintendents rate positive working relations with the school board as the No. 1 challenge they face on the job. A 2001 survey conducted by Thomas E. Glass, a former superintendent and professor of educational leadership at the University of Memphis, said 64 percent of a sample of 175 superintendents identified by peers as high performing classified their relationships with their boards as poor.

Experienced superintendents say a good way to measure the barometer of a prospective board employer is to ask questions during the interview. This is the time to compare personal goals to those of the district and confirm whether the match will be a good one.

DeBenedictis, the superintendent in Hollis, Mass., asked some basic clarifying questions in his interview–and appreciated the clear picture of the district’s needs that emerged.

“I asked what do you see as your weaknesses and your strengths?” he says. “What would you change if you had the opportunity? And several things came out. They needed a facilities plan and they needed restructuring of their curriculum. It was inconsistent in the way instruction was provided. And technology was sorely lacking.”

Sherman, who runs the Cherry Hill, N.J., system, says he “wanted to make sure the board was in accord with one another and not fractured.”

He adds: “I had done some research and the community seemed to have wonderful potential, yet some indicators weren’t as high as they should be. I pointed that out and asked if they were willing to make some changes to have higher achievement. This board said yes. They were looking for that. Nine of them said that in the same voice. I wanted to hear how strong the board president was in keeping them going in the same direction.”

But Sherman also unleashed his secret weapon as board members had dinner with him during the process. He brought his daughters, who were 7th and 9th graders.

“Kids are really good as a B.S. detector,” Sherman says. “They are good at hearing the truth behind the words. A couple of the board members talked about their own children. My kids liked hearing about that. They felt really comfortable. We always laid out two broad goals–a challenging position and a community where my family could feel comfortable. This was a good thing.”

McGarry found important insights by simply listening to the board members relate to one another during the interview.

“Lots of split votes would be a potential sign that the relationship is breaking down,” he says, but so is “‘entrenching in positions rather than in principles. Being wedded to particular solutions rather than issues. Positions should be flexible.”

Grier says what he looks for are hints of “the character of the board that’s hiring you,” including contradictory decisions and signs of distrust.

“Do as they do when they try to interview you and find out about your strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “Even in the best matches, they will tell you, ‘We want high standards or accountability or a decision-maker.’ They want improvement, but they don’t want change. Any time you change anything, there’s pain associated with it.”

Raising Red Flags

Ron Barnes, managing partner of the Bickert Group, an agency in Deerfield, Ill., that conducts national searches, says the interview is the time to clarify roles and expectations. Many boards want sweeping change but may not have a structure to support it.

“Ask, ‘What would you want me to do?”‘ he says. “A lot of times a laundry list will come out. Say, ‘Whoa. Wait a minute.’ You need to allow the superintendent to come in and build a strong base of operations. Stop and say, ‘Wait a minute. I’m most successful when I develop relationships.’ You have to be forthright and honest.”

Sometimes red flags will appear, including “negative questions coming, like, ‘We want to know if you have the ability to fire people,’ or questions that are coming from two or three board members and the others are making faces. It shows some issues and agendas. Or they talk about how they fired the last superintendent.”

Grier says he should have paid better attention to key indicators of possible trouble in Sacramento. Three superintendents had left the job the same way he ultimately did–when the board bought out their contracts.

“But I was very trusting they were willing to behave differently,” he admits.

Legal Protections

One way a superintendent can ensure protection even when things don’t work out is by negotiating a tight contract. It’s the part of the process than can seal the fate of a new superintendent. A good contract is a chiefs security blanket.

Johnson expected assurance from the board that she would have control over major administrative decisions. She spelled out that she would have the last word on hirings. “I have said if you want me to responsible for the score, you have to let me choose the starting lineup.”

Scott says a contract should reflect what the board specifically hired a superintendent to get done–and the goals should be stated clearly. “For example, if the board said we’ve got a problem with students–some students who are doing some bad things, I’m going to work with the principal. Or (if) the district’s in terrible financial shape, you’re going to have to cut some things.”

Scott has a clause stating that if the school district gets sued, he’ll get a lawyer, too.

Although it’s uncomfortable to think a job might not work out even before it begins, legal advisers tell superintendents that they must consider their best interests since no one else will.

“The board that hired you may change,” says Barnes, a veteran consultant for superintendent searches. “I had six board members change in my third year as a superintendent. You have to be able to protect yourself. One is a monetary consideration, that you might also have legal representation paid for by the board. But there are some timing issues, that if the board is unhappy, your evaluation has to take place in such and such a time period. Have an evergreen contract that rolls forward unless you are notified by a certain date.”

Glass recommends that superintendents consider that a longer contract might mean they have more time to complete difficult tasks. DeBenedictis, who has been in the job at Hollis-Brookline for six years, agrees.

“You need to have a multiple-year contract,” he said. “What we needed couldn’t have been accomplished in a year’s time–particularly with the curriculum restructuring. It requires building coalitions. You need to work in a patient, supportive way to elicit ideas.”

David Gee is a superintendent of the Western Suffolk BOCES, a conglomeration of 18 smaller districts on Long Island, and a former president of the New York State Council of School Superintendents. He advises his colleagues who become finalists in a search to take nothing for granted.

“We counsel every new superintendent before signing a contract to have it reviewed by the council’s attorneys and legal firm to assure that everything’s in order,” Gee says.

But the best advice he gives is to do a good job at the front end.

“The bottom line is you never know for sure what you’re going to get into. [You must] be good listeners and communicators. [You] should begin to establish goals and expectations that are coming from their conversations when [you] are first approached.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Sizing Up a Superintendency: Does the Shoe Fit?

RONALD L. FRIEDMAN

I spotted both The New York Times advertisement and the formal vacancy brochure for a soon-to-be-vacant superintendency in the same week. After reading both, I was as captured by the description of the school district and the job requirements as I was by what I knew about the district by its solid regional reputation: upscale, fiscally sound, high achievement levels.

I put my papers in the mail, had a great interview with the search consultant and found myself one Thursday evening in back-to-back interviews with the school board and a large screening committee. The board interview went well. It was an intellectual and bright group that asked good questions, and I had equally good answers. The chemistry seemed right on target. Then came the screening committee–25 people, representing all segments of the school community. Their questions and my answers, for the most part, were meshing well. But a few people in the back right section of the room seemed almost hostile! They grilled me on some of my written statements in my application and about my prior experience in a fiscally conservative district. I discovered subsequently they were the teacher union president and his officers, and they appeared quite uncomfortable with my background.

Leaving the interview, I had concerns. If I were offered the job and accepted, would it work out? Would it be a good fit?

Enduring Marriage

I went through the superintendent search process in a number of districts and did not see it through in several, including the district above. I was offered and accepted the superintendency in the Long Beach Public Schools, a suburban New York City-area district of 4,500 students. After nearly three years, when I’m asked, “Is the honeymoon over?” I respond, yes, but the’ marriage is solid! To me, the fit is a good as it gets.

What actually makes for a good fir between a candidate and a particular superintendency? Indeed, how would one define a good fit? How can you assess the potential for a good fit between you and a particular position for which you are applying?

I believe several factors define the fit between a candidate and superintendency. First, what are the technical demands of the job you are considering? Make an assessment of your strengths. Do they match a particular district’s needs? For example, if you have little experience in school business administration, be wary of a district that leaves that critical role solely in the superintendent’s hands. Similarly, if you’ve been president of the local chapter of the school business officials and your primary and prior love is in school finance, think hard about a district that assumes you’ll be the de facto assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in addition to the CEO. Are test scores a major issue, or are academics fine but finances a problem? What fits your strengths?

Second, what are the position’s objective parameters? How much of a commute would it entail? Would you have to relocate? What would be the salary and benefits compared to what you now receive or what you would need to be happy? Is the district much too large or too small for you? I once was very high on a particular district to which I applied–until I made the trip from home a few times. The commute was more than an hour, and the district was so small that I felt claustrophobic as I went through the process. Not a good fit.

Chemical Connections

But to me, far and away the most important consideration in the issue of fit is chemistry. A superintendency is in many ways like a marriage. All the objective data may fit, but if the chemistry is amiss, chances are so will be the relationship. What feelings do you get as you go through the process?

Before I accepted the superintendency I now hold, I was a deputy superintendent. Ready for my first superintendency, I first spent time talking to other superintendents I knew and trusted and to some of the better-known regional headhunters. It was time and effort well spent.

To sum up their advice: trust your feelings and instincts, do your home-work, and don’t jump into a position just to make the move up or away from whatever it is you now are doing, unless economically you have no choice. If you feel particularly good or bad about an interaction with the board or a screening committee or search consultant, spend time reflecting. Analyze your feelings, extracting from the “vibes” some specifics of what’s behind the emotion. Like it or not, personal characteristics are very much in the mix when it comes to fit.

Age, gender, economics, race, religion, even physical characteristics of the players do influence feelings–both yours and those of the people you are meeting. Again, extract the data from those feelings. There’s no shame in withdrawing from your candidacy. Better to break the engagement before you commit to an unhappy marriage. But don’t carry the marriage analogy too far. That old adage, “Don’t get married to someone whom you think you’ll be able to change,” does not apply. A new board, for example, may want a change agent, and you may well be the perfect fit for that district, one that you otherwise would not consider, based on what is currently going on there.

Instincts Count

In summary, go with the three I’s: intelligence, information and instinct. Gather human intelligence from people–the current and former superintendents, people you know who work or did work in the district you are considering, individuals you may meet in the local library, friends or friends of friends who live in the district. Obtain information from the local newspaper. Go through at least the past year’s worth of local weeklies, available at the local library, and tap into all the other information sources you can touch upon.

Finally, and most importantly, trust and listen to your instincts, analyze the chemistry … and may you commit to a long and happy marriage!

Ronald Friedman is superintendent of the Long Beach Public Schools, 235 Lido Blvd., Lido Beach, N.Y. 11561. E-mail: rff@optanline.net

To Get This Job, You Need To Know Someone

Pamela Harrison

What’s the secret of selling yourself to a school board looking for its next superintendent?

Knowing your product. That means, knowing who you are and being prepared to articulate it.

When board members ask you to share information about yourself, they aren’t just putting you at ease. This is your chance to set the tone for the entire interview by clearly outlining your personal and professional philosophical base.

First Minutes Matter

The last time I was a superintendent candidate, the board president asked me to take the first 10 minutes of the interview to talk about myself. Essentially, I had two choices. I could highlight information from my application packet, such as my experience as a principal and superintendent, or I could tell them the things that weren’t easily spelled out on a resume, including things they couldn’t ask me.

I decided to make the most of my 10 minutes. I talked about my family, my church and my attempts at maintaining balance in my life as a superintendent. I also shared the successes and failures of my current superintendency and what I had learned from both. Then I focused on both my personal and professional non-negotiables. I didn’t use notes, and I spoke from my heart.

Later, when I asked the board president what made them choose me over the other finalists, he told me that what set me apart was the first 10 minutes of the interview. They appreciated my openness and honesty and felt that I had laid the groundwork for a relationship built on mutual trust and respect.

Separating Yourself

Prior to the board interview, superintendent candidates usually spend significant time and effort becoming experts on the school district to which they are applying. They study the district’s record on such things as student achievement, finances, teacher turnover, student demographics, growth and compensation and benefits.

Finalists for the job typically try to visit the community, noting the age and condition of facilities. They look for signs of community support for schools, and they discreetly ask questions about the board and district leadership.

Separating yourself from the rest of the pack requires more than research on the district, the board and the community, however. Successful candidates spend time in self-analysis and introspection. As a result, they have a clear vision of who they are professionally and personally.

Finding Yourself

So how do you develop your personal and professional philosophical base? Begin by asking yourself these questions:

* Who benefits from the decisions I make?

Looking back on a career in leadership, I can see countless decisions reflecting my true priorities. The surest way to identify what drives your decision making is to look honestly at who benefits from those decisions. Is it the students in your district or the teachers? Is it the community as a whole or special interest groups? Is it the campus or central administration?

* What battles are always worth fighting?

When faced with conflict, when do you back down? We all have some non-negotiables–positions from which we will not willingly compromise. Answer this question honestly and you will identify yours.

* How strong is my character?

In other words, what do I do when no one is looking? Character is not our reputation or our list of accomplishments, but rather our personal commitment to traits such as courage, self-discipline and endurance. And why does strength of character matter in the superintendency? Because the superintendency, more than any other job in education, requires a combination of knowledge, skills and personal integrity to ensure success.

* What is critical to my mental health and professional prowess?

In addition to strength of character, the superintendency demands attention to mental and emotional health. Perhaps the most important factor in maintaining not only your personal health but also your professional prowess is balance. We maintain balance by feeding ourselves physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. Know what you need and make sure you get it.

* What five things do I want to be able to say about my life when I am 85?

This is a common lead-in exercise for team-building and goal-setting activities. It is probably most effective, however, at identifying those results we wish to achieve in our lives. These results become the priorities that drive our behaviors and determine our philosophical base.

The Payoff

Knowing who you are arid sharing it with the board of trustees are important steps in acquiring a superintendency. More importantly, however, they are critical to longevity in the position.

Both you and the board have the opportunity to analyze on multiple levels the correctness of the match before you decide to become a team. And if the match is made you have laid a strong foundation for a productive, long-term working relationship.

Pamela Harrison, a former superintendent in Texas, is an associate professor of educational administration at Tarleton State University-Central Texas, 1901 S. Clear Creek Road, Killeen, TX 76549. E-mail: harrison@tarleton.edu

Ruth Sternberg is an education writer for The Columbus Dispatch. E-mail: rstern@dispatch.com

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