Thursday, July 26, 2012

Analysis of the Responsibilities of a District Administrator

In conjunction with a graduate course that I am taking this summer, I took some time to analyze the responsibilities of a school district administrator.  To accomplish this task I interviewed a local superintendent and created a monthly checklist of duties.  I then compared the checklist to the The Key Work of School Boards guidebook.  The book explains the eight fundamental components of the key work of school boards.  For each component--Vision, Standards, Assessment, Accountability, Alignment, Collaboration, Climate, and Continuous Improvement--the authors delineate the duties required of a superintendent.  My analysis is linked below.  If the district administrator that I spoke specifically discussed the duty during our interview, then the roles is highlighted and the specific evidence (if applicable) is noted.  

Systems Thinking
An effective administrator understands all aspects of his/her school system.  They are informed, monitor progress, and intervene when necessary.  However, a district administrator must delegate duties in an effective manner.  If you focus too much on one specific area, the other areas will suffer from a lack of leadership.  Leaders allow others to have ownership programs.  

In the current political and economic climate, the responsibilities of district administrators have expanded, or in many situations, superintendents work part-time.  As duties expand and time contracts overall capacity to lead decreases.  In addition, district's that choose this path miss out on many quality educational leaders who do not view a part-time/split position as desirable.

Effective leaders sweat small details
Much of the district administrator's job is "big picture" planning.  However, effective superintendents are keenly aware that every discussion, meeting, conference, or public interaction is an opportunity to fulfill the vision of the school district.  Successful leaders are normally thinking a couple of steps ahead and are constantly analyzing how current practices align to best practices.

A High Degree of Complexity
From strategic planning, instructional leadership, and fiscal management to federal compliance, human resources, and building management; district administrators must handle a diverse set of tasks.   The reality of the position is that it requires the ability to prioritize and organize your time.  You must practice personal humility, but have a determined professional will.  Superintendents have to be able to handle a high degree of complexity while solving problems.  This process involves analyzing multiple streams of information, sometimes from contradictory sources, that lead to no clear solutions.  In these instances a successful administrator must consistently make principled decisions by stepping back from the immediate situation and seeing the long-term, large scale patterns and trends.  

1 comment:

  1. I was not able to open your analysis however; I really enjoyed reading your summary of the responsibilities of a superintendent. The four components you used to categorize the tasks are very succinct. “Systems Thinking” is exactly what Brad has been emphasizing to us in every class activity. As a superintendent, using the shared vision as a guide, we can put systems into place to provide continual improvement for the school district. The delegation of responsibilities however, I believe would depend upon the task at hand and the individuals “readiness” level as described by Blanchard and Hershey Situational Leadership Model. “Compression” is an interesting word choice but does describe what a superintendent must strive to do in an ever increasing workload. Often superintendents are in a dual role, with the ever increasing responsibilities superintendents end up focusing on the managerial responsibilities and the leadership piece falls to the wayside. Your description of “Sweating the Small Details” reminds me of Dr. Joe Schroeders’ “Line of Sight.” Everything we do as superintendents must be in alignment with the districts vision. “Complexity” is so inherent in a position such as this one. As you say, prioritizing and organization are key skills in the decision making process.