Essential Skills Every Superintendent Needs

Jan 05, 2024
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As a superintendent, Edmentum understands that you have one of the busiest and often most misunderstood jobs in a district. As a leader, you often have to wear many hats and juggle quite a few responsibilities that are not always listed in your job description.

Whether you’re a seasoned superintendent looking to stay current or you’re a newcomer striving to achieve the top level someday, there are many skills required for your success. Here are 10 essential skills every superintendent needs:

1. Define and lead a school culture of equity

Equity is at the center of many conversations right now, whether it is through creating a culture that centers around empathy and inclusion, increasing access to topnotch educators, or closing the achievement gap. Equity will undoubtedly continue to be talked about as leaders develop initiatives and strategies to achieve desired growth in their districts. As a successful superintendent, your commitment to school-culture development and leadership is essential. Here are some quick ways to improve your school culture.

2. Handle tough situations

Students have instant access to breaking news and current events now more than ever. Even if students don’t fully understand what’s going on in our world, the talk about current events has creeped into classrooms across the country. Whether tragedies, such as school shootings or student suicide, or the ongoing heartbreak tied to school bullying (and, now, cyberbullying), you are charged with exercising extreme judgment and leadership in these situations. As a leader, you must learn how to tackle these situations in a way that best suits your student population and leverage respectful discussion and technology use, such as the Internet and social media.

3. Understand student diversity and drive inclusiveness

While you most likely already work to support the growing needs of special education and English language learners, there are other populations that just 10 or 20 years ago wouldn’t have received the same level of attention, support, or understanding as they do today. This includes those affected by DACA immigration policy and undocumented students, as well as those who identify as LGBTQ+. Supporting students of ALL backgrounds is something that will shape the success of your student community. Here are seven ways to build an inclusive community in your school.

4. Improve school culture

Creating a strong culture in both schools and organizations has been a hot topic of conversation lately. Successful implementation of school culture begins at the top. A great superintendent knows that opening lines of communication between teachers and administrators can help spur positive change and result in improved student relationships and discipline.

5. Leverage social media

Social media is something that cannot be ignored. While it can be a powerful tool for learning and building support, it can also turn into a negative place where scandals can spread quickly. It is important for you to model best practices and behaviors on social media, as well as establish proper guidelines for the do’s and don’ts of each platform. Proper social media guidelines can help your staff leverage various platforms and help avoid confusion in the future.

6. Look beyond the academic needs of your students

School is a place for learning, but students who possess a sense of belonging and purpose are more likely to reach their full potential. Numerous districts are implementing programs that enhance holistic development to help students problem solve and persevere through adversity. As a leader, you should make sure that the needs of your students are taken care of beyond the academic alone.

7. Create edtech buy-in

Any successful 21st century school uses some sort of edtech, and in order to make sure that its implementation is successful, all parties involved have to be on board. Make sure that you motivate and show your teachers the benefits of using such technology to drive positive learning outcomes. If your teachers believe in the programs that they’re using, they will be more likely to use them with fidelity. Here’s a blog post about how to make sure that technology implementation is successful for your staff.

8. Embrace the value of marketing

Although you may not consider yourself a marketer, there are many lessons that can be taken from the private sector and applied in your current role. Many superintendents implement a full marketing strategy to help change public perception about what goes on in schools in order to cultivate support. Many digital marketing practices found in social media or advertising can help a district leader recruit and retain teachers, pass important measures, and turn community members into advocates for their local schools. Consider implementing some digital marketing best practices to stay in front of the narrative surrounding your schools and district.

9. Define college and career readiness

It is the job of anyone who works at a school or district to make sure that students are prepared for life beyond graduation. As superintendent, however, you have the ability to drive the emphasis behind providing your students with flexible pathways to graduation, and you are at the forefront of procuring the necessary programs to help achieve those goals. Offering elements like CTE programs, AP® courses, virtual options, and credit recovery is an important foundation to consider for your district.

10. Strive to grow as a leader through professional development

Any good district leader always looks to learn and grow professionally and believes that the key to being successful is to continue learning and to always strive for self-improvement. Just as valuable as turning students into lifelong active learners, you should always be learning from others to help broaden your perspective and stay sharp. Evaluating your own performance can be a great place to start.

Looking for more professional development opportunities? Learn more about how administrators can support their educators with professional development opportunities.

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