Different Paths to the Same Destination
The journey to a superintendent’s position can take many paths. For some it is a strategic journey of positions from one district to the next in order to acquire the experience and knowledge necessary for chief school administrators. For others, it may be the willingness to take advantage of an opportunity that was never expected. Regardless of the road traveled, the destination remains the same. You are now the new superintendent of schools.
My journey is probably different from many. I began in my district as a high school chemistry teacher. After teaching for 20 years, the opportunity to become the K-12 district supervisor of math and science was offered to me. Although I would have preferred to remain in the classroom a little longer, I knew another opportunity like this in my district would not be available. I assumed the role and gained experience in curriculum, programs and grant writing. This lead to my next position of assistant superintendent. After four years in this position, I am now the superintendent of schools since last July.
The reason for my short biography is very simple. Because I was so familiar with my district, I felt confident that I would be well-prepared for my new role of superintendent. Although I know every staff member by name and hired over 50 % of them over the years, the daily “unknowns” of the role of the superintendent remain the same as if I were new to the district. In my other positions, I always had a general idea of what needed to be accomplished for the next day. My daily “to do” checklist was easily accomplished with a sense of confidence. As a superintendent, my daily lists consisting of “post-its” of emergencies that need my immediate attention. There are endless logs of phone calls and appointments, contentious board meeting, community events and daily problems requiring an immediate resolution. Decisions need to be made, and you are the ultimate authority.
Regardless of the pathway taken to the position of superintendent, the role is the same for all. We are responsible for making decisions that affect all of our staff, children and parents within our communities. That is a tremendous responsibility and at times very daunting. I was very fortunate to have had wonderful mentors along the way that have provided me with exceptional advice. I was always told that if I am making a decision that is best for children, it will always be the correct one. Although adults may complain and place obstacles in the way, we are here for the children. As women, I feel that we do this without conscious effort. We juggle our family responsibilities with our professional roles as part of the norm. Putting our own children first is natural and following the same in our professional lives is instinctual.
Over the past 12 months I have had many moments of doubts regarding my position. It was a year fraught with many issues dealing with school shootings, student tragedies, and weather phenomena. I definitely feel that a course in meteorology should be a pre-requisite for certification as I looked over weather maps tirelessly this past winter. As I reflect on the past year, I also have many moments of pride as I watched staff and students succeed against tremendous odds. I cannot accept the full responsibility for that but I do realize that I was definitely a part of it. I tried to be the leader they looked to when they needed a guiding hand. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best when she said, “A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” I am confident we are all ready for our next cup of tea.