The daylong “High-Impact Governing Work Session” hosted by the Southern Fairfield County Superintendents Association on October 26 opened with a discussion of the wild and wonderful “field” of K-12 governance, which actually is still far from being a full-fledged field with universally accepted principles and best practices. It’s evolving rapidly and key concepts are heatedly debated. As one of the participants observed, “Welcome to the frontier everyone!”
If I recall correctly, only one of the 20-some Southern Fairfield County (CT) superintendents attending the daylong session testified that he’d had a really thorough course in graduate school on the school board-superintendent relationship. When you consider how critical a solid board-superintendent partnership is to a superintendent’s success as her district’s chief executive officer, higher education is – sadly and inexplicably – missing the boat. And no one in the group disagreed with the observation of one of their colleagues that superintendent-aspirants are highly unlikely to acquire the knowledge and skills required to build a solid relationship with their eventual school board by merely climbing the administrative ladder to the top spot in their districts.
You’ll want to check out the podcast that Bryan Luizzi recorded for this blog – talking about the October 26 gathering at lovely LaKota Oaks in Norwalk. Bryan, who is Superintendent of the New Canaan Public schools and President of the Southern Fairfield County Superintendents Association, talks about factors that contributed to an outstanding work session on October 26, such as retaining a professional facilitator, creating a “steering committee” of superintendents to work with the facilitator in developing the detailed agenda for the day together, and employing nine breakout groups to ensure active engagement and generate powerful content.
As Bryan explains in his podcast, the nine breakout groups more than any other factor distinguished the High-Impact Governing Work Session from a conventional training workshop. Three different groups met concurrently in each of three rounds over the course of the day, exploring various facets of K-12 governing work and the board-superintendent partnership, The groups dealt with such real-life, practical matters as systematically developing the governing knowledge and skills of board members, managing the board’s governing performance, engaging board members in critical governing areas, such as strategic planning, budget development, and external relations, and strengthening the board-superintendent partnership. By the way, since every breakout group member was engaged in reporting back to the whole group in the plenary session following each round of breakouts, by the time we adjourned on the 26th, every participant had presented three times to her peers.
According to Bryan, the fact that so much of the day involved superintendents educating themselves through active exploration of real-life questions, rather than passively listening to theoretical concepts, made for an energizing, thoroughly enjoyable day.