The superintendent and the school board play a significant role in the overall performance of a school district. Now, we all know that the superintendent and the school board are two separate entities, but there are times when they need to collaborate to achieve success. Many studies suggest that a strong relationship between these two is necessary for students' education and growth.
The primary reason for conflicts among superintendents and school boards is the competing demands to balance budgets and meet student needs. Miscommunication, power struggles and diverse agendas all contribute to this challenging relationship.
In this blog, we will discuss Five Ways Superintendents Can Build Strong School Board Relationships:
Define Roles & Responsibilities Clearly
Conflicts between superintendents and school board members can occur when the two parties infringe upon one another's responsibilities. This can harm student achievement, reduce the effectiveness of school education, and undermine the district's success. This can occur when the school board tries to interfere in the administrative tasks or when the superintendents focus on the policy.
Superintendents and boards should clearly define their roles and responsibilities to avoid such conflict. School board responsibilities may include but are not limited to establishing the vision and goals for the school district, hiring and evaluating the superintendent, serving as advocates and representatives of the community, etc. The school board empowers superintendents to carry out administrative tasks to accomplish the board's goals in line with its vision for student success.
Understanding their roles and responsibilities helps build trust, accountability and a strong working relationship between the superintendent and the school board. And it also supports both parties in accomplishing their goals towards better student achievements.
Be Honest and Genuine
A superintendent should always speak with care and responsibility. You must be aware of whom you are speaking to, what it is, and what the repercussions will be. Remember that your words hold much weight, and people listen to what you say (both students and staff). Therefore, always be careful of how you speak. For example, you might have a bad day, but if it is brought up angrily, it might create a poor experience in the staff work environment.
On the other hand, if approached with compassion while briefly explaining what happened, it may help ease tensions rather than create more. Also, try encouraging and go out of your way to praise whenever possible! Try to be more specific while praising and acknowledging specific accomplishments or actions in front of the staff whenever possible. This shows appreciation for hard work done at school and models good behaviour for others. You must also be open to acknowledging your mistakes, admit when things aren't going well, and ask for help when needed.
Try to summarise requests to the board clearly and effectively. This can be via a written document or a presentation if you think it would be more effective. This is because many of the school board members might not come from an educational background and may have busy professional lives outside of their position on the board. Prepare summaries that are easy to understand, so they can see your requests as well-thought-out and something that could be beneficial for all parties involved.
Collaboration and team efforts
Superintendents and boards need to work together effectively to steer local public education towards success. When staff, parents and students suffer from dysfunctional leadership, it is impossible to implement strategic planning or delegate responsibilities efficiently. It is not necessary that only one person plans and implements everything; however, the delegation of work must be done carefully.
Trust people who have been hired to manage specific rules but ensure that they are not overworked. Make sure to check in on them from time to time to see their progress and where they might need improvement. Teamwork needs effort and intentionality, so you must be purposeful in how you carry out collaboration. Successful boards and superintendents must acknowledge that positive relationships will benefit student achievements because they encourage employee trust.
Communicate Regularly and Effectively
Superintendents must fully understand their role when communicating with the school board and staff. To do this, you need to create a communication plan that outlines how you will communicate within your district and with external stakeholder groups. You should create a communication plan for how often to communicate, which medium you will use, and the agenda. It can be as simple as a weekly email that conveys essential information from your school, upcoming events, or a monthly presentation at school board meetings.
It is your job to ensure you fully inform stakeholders about what is happening in the district. You need to be open and honest with them all the time. You must never hide anything from your staff or board members. Share as much information as possible so everyone involved feels essential and valued. And while communicating with others, you should take extra care to listen first and respond appropriately.
Evaluation of Superintendents
Research shows that thoughtful and intentional assessment of the superintendent enhances their progress and efficiency. Frequent assessments help district leaders to plan their strategies, including the goals for improving student achievement. Many school boards slowly understand the importance of assessing the performance of their superintendent.
Using the right technology, board members and superintendents can access materials or documents required for an optimal assessment. Having these materials available may help facilitate the efficient evaluation process.
Collaborative leadership can result in better learning outcomes for students. When school boards and superintendents collaborate to improve learning, they bolster their schools' quality and enrich their students' lives.