Doug Eadie

The October 2 post at this blog describes a critical role of the superintendent:  taking the initiative in building her school board’s governing capacity, wearing the Board Developer-in-Chief hat.  This was one of the four major topics I addressed in the workshop I presented for the Aspiring Superintendents Academy of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators on September 23, 2023.  The topic really deserved the attention we gave it for two major reasons.  First, well-developed school boards provide their members with a more productive and satisfying governing experience, making them more reliable partners for the superintendent.  Second, many if not most school board members have neither the time nor the expertise to handle the job of developing their board’s governing capacity on their own.  If the superintendent doesn’t take the lead, board development is highly unlikely to take place.

Over the course of my nearly 40 years of hands-on work with school boards and superintendents, I’ve learned that many if not most superintendents take the helm of their first district ill-prepared not only to take the initiative in board development, but generally unprepared to build enduring partnerships with their boards.  The result, in my opinion, is the sky-high and accelerating turnover at the very top in school districts throughout the nation.  I estimate that for every case of a ruptured board-superintendent partnership due to inadequate superintendent performance as the district chief executive and educational leader that I’ve encountered over the years, I’ve come across 10 relationships that have fallen victim to the superintendent’s lack of expertise in – and inattention to – relationship building per se.  Especially critical, in my experience, is superintendents’ unpreparedness to deal with the psychological/emotional dimension of the relationship with their board (for example, cementing the relationship with their board president/chair by providing her with non-monetary compensation such as public recognition and ego satisfaction).

Since colleges of education pay scant attention to the school board-superintendent partnership, and aspiring superintendents are highly unlikely to acquire the necessary relationship building knowledge and skills on the job, programs such as the MASA Aspiring Superintendents Academy fill a career-threatening vacuum.  Over the past eight years the MASA Academy has achieved stellar results in Minnesota, so I’m pleased to share the following link to the video interview I recently recorded with Deb Henton, MASA Executive Director,  Lori Zimmerman, MASA’s Director of Professional Learning, and Kate Maguire, the MASA Academy’s Facilitator.  Deb, Lori and Kate deal with the Academy’s genesis,   operating details – such as participant selection and the structure of in-person work sessions, the evolving program content, and an assessment of the return to participants on their investment in the Academy in terms of professional impact.

MASA has fine-tuned a powerful model for preparing superintendent-aspirants to take the helm in their first district, and I know our readers will find my interview with Deb, Lori and Kate both interesting and replete with practical, nuts and bolts detail they can put to good use.  Enjoy!

About the Author: Doug Eadie

President & CEO of Doug Eadie & Company, Inc., Doug Eadie assists CEOs in building rock solid partnerships with their boards.

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