How to Attract a New Superintendent to Your District in a Tight Market

The issue of attracting high quality candidates is always a primary concern of boards.

Filling superintendent vacancies is now more of a challenge for boards because it is a “seller’s” market. There are more vacancies than there are high quality superintendent candidates. Successful superintendents have many viable choices as to where they want to work and what process they are willing to follow as they consider new positions.

One perspective to keep in mind is that successful superintendents work hard at building trust with their boards and their communities. In fact, the trust that a board and a community has in a superintendent is one of the most valuable tools that a superintendent has in moving a district forward and meeting the challenges facing public education today. The candidates will be interviewing the Board to ascertain if the members work as a team in this common vision.

Given these two issues, board members need to consider the candidate’s perspective in designing their search process. While community members are interested in how the process is designed and what opportunities they have for input, the bottom line for most community members is that they want the board to find the very best candidate for their school district.

Superintendents are looking for communities that want and respect their professional leadership skills. They also are looking for boards that understand the distinction between governance and management. This means that boards will govern well and will permit them to manage well.

Royal Gurley
Photo: charlottesvilleschools.org

Dr. Gurley found a home in Charlottesville: “I look forward to working with this dedicated team.”  Dr. Gurley is the first black male and openly gay superintendent of Charlottesville City Schools.

Our experience has been that active superintendent candidates will be willing to explore the option of leading a school district if three conditions prevail:

  1. They will be given the opportunity to utilize their professional leadership skills in a meaningful and proactive manner to move a district forward.
  2. They will be granted confidentiality during the interview process so that they do not need to put their current job on the line and risk alienating their current board and/or community.
  3. They will have an opportunity to advance professionally and financially.

Superintendents are looking for communities that want and respect their professional leadership skills. They also are looking for boards that understand the distinction between governance and management. This means that boards will govern well and will permit them to manage well. As part of the search process, HYA hosted a board governance workshop for the Charlottesville Board and New Superintendent to enhance the relationship and discuss information learned throughout the search process as well as protocols for communication, governance and management.

Candidates that a board wants are generally not seeking a new job; these individuals are typically successfully leading a school district and will have to be aggressively recruited to consider a move. This type of person cannot afford to let their current staff and community know that they are looking. The mere fact that one looks at another professionally attractive position is perceived as being tantamount to betrayal by many current stakeholders. The best candidates know that they cannot afford to jeopardize the relationship that they have developed over a period of years by exploring a new job and then coming in second place.  Hence, candidates strongly desire confidentiality in a search.

Finally, the move to a new district has to provide an individual with a sense of professional and personal advancement, as well as, the personal reward and financial incentive which will motivate them to uproot their family, leave friends, and separate from a district they have become part of and has provided them with professionally satisfying opportunities. This translates to the fact that the Board will have to consider what salary it will take to secure the caliber of individual it seeks.

About HYA

HYA provides comprehensive and customizable consulting for district leaders and school boards.

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