Superintendent Searches

Pegged to the leadership turnover in Montgomery County* in the WaPo Jay Mathews comes down hard on superintendent searches. Boards often benefit from a consultant to help manage the process but I agree with him on the value – or more specifically the lack of – with full-blown school district superintendent searches. We don’t do them at Bellwether except in very unusual circumstances because you can do them well (customized/tailored) or  you can do them in a way that is break-even or profitable (list of usual suspects). It’s hard to do both.

On the other hand, Jay makes a good case about candidates for this role, but I don’t find hard and fast lines about internal or external candidates especially useful. Leadership roles like this are situational and vary situation to situation.

*Jay’s greasing of Montgomery County is a little over the top though! These large suburban school systems are never as “world class” as their world class PR machines would have you believe.

3 Replies to “Superintendent Searches”

  1. At what point will we stop putting such important decisions in the hands of school boards? These well-meaning, well-intentioned officials often have NO experience whatsoever in education or policy and are charged with making huge, consequential decisions.

  2. People can make cracks about school boards, and — indeed — they do not hire supts on a regular basis and, ergo, do not become skilled in the task. That said…

    Superintendent search firms seem like a joke, in my opinion. Have not yet found one that sticks out as significantly better than the rest.

    To maximize profit, these firms’ goal is to get a superintendent selected as fast as possible. Fast rarely equals good.

    Also, the inside joke is that any sitting supt who has his/her papers “already on file” with a search firm is generally not the best qualified candidate for the district that is looking for a new leader. “Buyer beware.”

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