With the official news that New Albany-Floyd County Schools’ superintendent Bruce Hibbard is leaving NAFCS for Franklin Township Community Schools, our local school corporation is faced with finding the next instructional leader to lead our community’s schools.
It’s an important decision that comes at a critical time for our schools and community. I’d encourage our school board members and the powers-that-be to spend a lot of time speaking to local educators and community members to determine our expectations and needs.
Transparency throughout the entire process is essential. So is the need to select a steady, trustworthy leader with a history of uniting people in developing and implementing a shared vision for our students.
To that end, as a NAFCS teacher, there are five leadership traits that I believe our next superintendent must exhibit to be effective. I would encourage our school board members and administrators to consider these above all else.
Two qualifiers before I begin my list:
First, none of my suggestions are meant as criticisms of Dr. Hibbard or any specific practices. Dr. Hibbard has been a consistent supporter of Floyd Central Journalism, encouraging student journalists to attend school board meetings and always inviting them to cover NAFCS events. I appreciate his support for scholastic journalism and of our program – he obviously valued my student journalists and their publications. I am thankful for that and wish him success in his new job and community.
Secondly, I am speaking for no one but myself here. These are simply my thoughts as a teacher and community member, and my opinions are no more or less important than anyone else’s views. It is my hope, though, that the expertise and opinions of our teachers and support staff and personnel be listened to and valued in this process.
With that said, in my opinion, our next superintendent should be a leader who embraces the following five leadership roles:
A consistent, proven track record of building consensus among teachers, administrators, students, parents, and community members is the most important quality to look for.
Our best ideas for achieving and sustaining success in our schools are right here in this community and in our schools. Above all else, the next superintendent must have an extensive record of uniting and engaging teachers, administrators, support personnel, parents, students, and community in developing and implementing policies.
Sound educational programs begin in our classrooms, schools, homes, and neighborhoods, not in an office or boardroom in the administration building. Our next superintendent should reach out, connect, and collaborate.
This essential collaboration begins with a leader who listens.
In Southern Indiana, we value visible, accessible leaders. Our next superintendent must do more than simply show up for events or join organizations, though. He or she must engage and listen. Obviously, not every suggestion or new idea can be implemented. But, our teachers, support personnel, and community members must feel our viewpoints and ideas are valued.
Reject the urge to simply snatch, grab, and implement the new educational “trend of the moment.” Instead, listen to the ideas being shared and piloted in our local classrooms by our teachers, those who strive to develop their craft each day. Help us build our next ideas from our classrooms up and out to our colleagues, as well as to other schools and communities. This begins by listening – by knowing what we are doing in our classrooms, departments, and schools.
Just as important – listen to the needs and expectations of parents, community leaders, and business owners. While educators should always make curricular and instructional decisions for our classrooms and schools, an engaged community helps us do this.
The best educational leaders are so often not those who always speak, but who listen to those they work with and serve. We need a superintendent who listens.
The complexity of decisions made daily in school corporations is astounding. It takes a skilled communicator to explain the importance of these decisions to an often-skeptical public. This is especially important when a school corporation renovates its schools, as we are doing now.
Parents and community members need to understand how decisions affect their lives and the education of their children. Additionally, in the day of growing intrusion into local schools from state agencies and legislatures, superintendents have to explain new and sometimes illogical state laws and directives to the community as well.
Community members, parents, even teachers need to understand the growing complexities of Indiana public education. We will need a school leader who can understand those complexities and explain how they impact lives on a personal level.
Evaluator and Questioner
We have initiated many changes in our local schools in the last few years. Some have been innovative and positive. Others, not so much. Some should be retained, while others changed or abandoned. This is true in any school corporation.
It’s time to carefully examine which new programs and initiatives work, and which do not, especially in terms of cost analysis, time demands on educators, and overall educational benefit for the maximum number of students. In particular, I’d like to see more analysis and discussion of the significant amount of student testing and on effective use of teacher time.
Regardless of the issues, though, our school corporation needs to reject a “change for change’s sake” mentality that seems to grip too many modern educational institutions. “Why?” is the most important question we can ask when developing sound policies and procedures. We need a leader who helps us ask this question more often.
Public School Advocate
I’ll end with this.
Our next superintendent must be an instructional leader with a variety of experiences in and a love for public schools.
Our local public schools are treasures. This is especially true of NAFCS schools. In an era of competition and choice, I want to teach with and work with a public school educator and advocate, someone who consistently and proudly champions the public schools in our community and the many fine people who work in them.
As a teacher I need to know with certainty that my superintendent is on my team, that he or she believes in me.
Select a leader who is a proud public school educator.
One Final Note
Again, these are simply my views as a teacher. These are only one teacher’s views as to what we should look for next, not a critique of any quality we may or may not have lacked in the past.
For another viewpoint, click here to read the News and Tribune’s views.
Finally, for those who are interested, the New Albany-Floyd County School Board has scheduled a special meeting to address the superintendent search at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Friday, June 16) at Scribner Middle School. The meeting is open to the public.