Positive Superintendent-Board Relationship Starts Now!

Focus on the Classroom by Rosanne Winter

The new Collier County School Board that will be seated in a few weeks will face a challenge common to such boards, particularly one that will be charged with selecting a new organizational leader. That is, once our new superintendent is in place, the Board will need to remember that it must fully support, encourage and help ensure the success of the new leader, but that it must do that without micromanaging.

Under Florida law, and also under the dictates of common business practice, the School Board is a policy-making body. It’s job today in Collier County is to ensure that a strong strategic plan is in place and that the school system’s operating policies, values and goals have been clearly defined (with the extensive input of local citizens, school personnel, parents and others, of course). Then it must select a new leader who proactively embraces the established policies, plans, values and goals, and who also will work collaboratively with the Board to modify them as needed through time.

A critical task for the Board will be creation of an effective system for ongoing evaluation of the new superintendent, using performance goals that have specific and measurable target outcomes. With that system in place, what the new superintendent will need most is the ongoing advice and support of the Board. And, he or she will need – and should be able to expect – for the Board to back off a bit, get out of the way, let him or her do the job within the district’s established framework of policies and practices!

A school system is a huge and complex business enterprise, the business being the education of our children and their preparation for success in life. Individual schools are like small cities, with physical and intellectual infrastructure, transportation systems, hundreds of employees and sometimes thousands of students with wildly varying interests and capabilities.

It is the superintendent’s job to provide effective oversight of all this and to challenge everyone within the enterprise to reach, always, for excellence. It is the School Board’s job to make overall policies and see that they are followed, and to ensure that the superintendent has the resources to get the job done. While the Board should provide advice to the school leader when asked and direction when needed, it is NOT the Board’s job to serve as proxy operating officers within the school system.

The relationship between the School Board and recent Collier superintendents often has been rocky. The Board sometimes has gotten more involved than it should have in school operational issues, even as the superintendent has veered inappropriately into policy-making. Carried out correctly, however, the upcoming search for a new Collier superintendent will draw numerous qualified candidates who have excellent experience, knowledge, leadership skills, and personal attributes including a collaborative attitude that would serve them well and calm the waters of the Board-superintendent relationship.

The Board’s job is to find and hire that right person. Then it must make sure that it does nothing to prevent him or her from providing a first-rate educational environment for our children.

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Comments » 4

grizzly7 writes:

Who do I trust to guide the process of selecting the next superintendent for Collier County? Rosanne Winter. The article posted today says it all - she is prepared and knowledgeable to serve on the Board at this time. We need her proven leadership and communication skills at this crucial time. We need to seat a Board who will select the right superintendent. Who do I trust? Winter.

dwyerj1 writes:

A good statement of an overview with one major flaw: "A school system is a huge and complex business enterprise, the business being the education of our children and their preparation for success in life."

Not at all true--and the falsehood is the foundation for the failure of any superintendent coming in to take over as a CEO.

Education is unlike industry, unlike a corporation. We are not looking for a fair distribution of windfall profits. What goes on behind the scenes at schools? The investment of millions of our tax dollars in unsolicited new programs and new books pushed into the classroom against teacher desires and recommendations is one of them.

Another is the endowing of principals with unfettered power over their staffs. And certainly the efforts by Colonel Thompson to emasculate if not entirely break the unions.

The CEO's and managers, a very small minority in every corporation, think they are the company. But they are wholly worthless lot without the workforce.

Collier County needs no advertisement for charter schools, corporate values, market-driven reforms, a slash-and-burn mode of leadership that glorifies tough-love policies, which bear an eerie resemblance to the way boot camps are run in the military, and a polarizing piece of propaganda aimed at undermining public education while also demonizing and humiliating teachers.

Exhibiting an unquestioned faith in market values and charter schools, Dr. Winter's business enterprise statement is in denial about both the public schools that work and the need to improve public schooling rather than turn it over to the advocates of free-market fundamentalism and a discredited casino capitalism.

I'll vote for Dr. Winter; however, she must needs learn that the corporate model for schools is totally wrong--no matter the large contingent of Neapolitans who map that model onto schools.

dwyerj1 writes:

On the same ballot we are asked to choose a new U.S. Senator. Probably everyone would like a senator from Naples.

However, Mr. Crist has my highest esteem for standing against those who supported Senate Bill 6, which was being pushed by Florida legislators. Under this bill, the quality of teaching and the worth of a teacher would have been solely determined by student test scores on standardized tests.

Teacher pay would have been dependent upon such test scores, while the previous experience of a teacher would be deemed irrelevant.

Moreover, advanced degrees and professional credentials would have become meaningless in determining a teacher's salary. SB 6 made professional experience and quality credentials irrelevant next to the hard reality of an empiricism that appears divorced from any semblance of reality.

The real point of the bill was to both weaken the autonomy and authority of teachers and to force the Florida teacher's union to accept merit pay for teachers.

But there was more at stake in this bill than a regressive understanding of the role and power of teachers and the desire to eliminate the very conditions, places and spaces that make good teaching possible.

The bill also mandated that the power of local school boards be restricted, that new teachers be given probationary contracts for up to five years and then placed on a contract to be renewed annually.

Moreover, salaries would be excluded as a subject of collective bargaining. This bill degraded the purpose of schooling, teaching and learning.

It was not only harsh and cruel, but educationally reactionary and designed to turn public schools into political tools for corporate dominated legislators, while depriving students of any viable notion of teaching and learning.

Mr. Crist nobly vetoed the bill. He has my gratitude and vote. The school board should, indeed, have the power and policy of micromanaging the managers, the Superintendent and any other administrator who would violate the autonomy of teacher authority, the conditions necessary for critical teaching, and the magical creativity that produces visionary goals for student learning.

Public schools are not factories nor is a school system a business.

calmthewaters writes:

To Dwyerj1: Your thoughtful post about Dr. Winter's blog incorrectly says that she equates school systems with corporations. She never used the word "corporation" in her blog. What I believe she was saying is that a school district is a complex entity, just as large businesses are. Budgets, personnel, infrastructure, transportation systems, etc. to manage. And what I thought she was saying was that the next superintendent -- the person charged with overseeing this complex enterprise and ensuring that its collective efforts result in education of the highest-possible quality for our children -- must have the business skills to exercise such oversight. And, I believe she was saying that the School Board needs to do the hard work of finding exactely the right person for the superintendency, then offer whatever resources and support are needed but, basically, otherwise get out of the way and let the superintendent do his or her job. None of that has anything at all to do with letting free-market principles rule our schools. What it has to do with is finding a great leader for superintendent, then supporting that person's efforts to ensure our children are getting a great education in Collier schools. Thanks. Wish more posts on NDN stories were as thoughtful as yours.

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