Valid email addresses are required to post comments. If your comment is not posted, I will send you an email with an explanation.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Whine Seller

What does a school superintendent do?

Well, I don't sell whine, though this Blog entry might sound like I'm trying.

An earlier Blog (November 10th) identified a litany of reports that must be completed to satiate the gregarious appetite of bureaucracy. That offered some insight into one element of the role of superintendent of schools. Another component associated with the responsibility involves time. There rarely seems to be enough time. The purpose of this entry is not to cry about my role, but rather inform people of the wide ranging duties encumbered in the responsibility of serving as a school superintendent (maybe that's why I've never heard about anyone wanting to grow up to be a superintendent!)

Beyond the normal workday, which usually begins between 7:00 and 7:15 in the morning and extends through 5:00 in the late afternoon/early evening, are an array of school related activities. This particular week offers an eclectic range that typifies the work calendar.

Monday night's schedule revealed a contract negotiations meeting that began at 6:00 pm.The negotiations meeting brought together representatives of the teachers' union and the administration/board of education. Rather than drive home for a few minutes only to return to school, I remained at the office and attended to other tasks until the meeting started. Our efforts to reach agreement on a resolution paving the way for a contract settlement consumed a couple of hours. We did not reach a final and definite accord, although enough progress was made to stimulate some optimism. A discussion afterwards with board members and the district's legal counsel to explore strategy added another half hour to the schedule.

Tuesday marked the inaugural home game for the girls basketball program. The Modified Team kicked off the schedule with a tip-off at 4:30 pm. That game was followed by the Varsity contest. The final buzzer of that second game didn't sound until after 7:00 pm. I waited until all of the spectators vacated the building before leaving the facility. Dinner was concession food - two cups of goulash, a hot dog and a bottle of water. I have eaten cafeteria food for over fifty years so I am accustomed to grabbing food like this.

Wednesday was the boys turn to open up their home schedule of the basketball season. They also started competition at 4:30 pm, with the Modified teams in the early game. The Varsity teams followed afterward. The game was not completed until after 7:00 pm. Concession food dinner again. This time a slice of pizza and a delicious brownie to accompany the pasta. I had some pressing work so I sought refuge in the office to wrestle with the statistics involving proposed salary schedules for teachers. We are nearing an agreement and the figures had to be verified for accuracy. I remained glued to that challenge for another hour and a half.

Thursday night began with a donation of blood at the senior class sponsored blood drive in conjunction with the American Red Cross. That left me a little weakened by the experience. However, the night then picked up with the holiday spirit and the charm of children in grades Kindergarten, First, and Second singing seasonal songs in a Winter Concert. Christmas colors and merriment abounded. It was a very entertaining evening and a chance for me to meet the family and friends of our young learners.

Friday evening was free of any school function. It was a welcome respite from the busy schedule. These events are important opportunities for me to interact with the public. The school superintendent is often among the most visible and high ranking public servants in most communities. As such, there is an expectation and a need for the superintendent to engage with the public as the face of the school district - the same face that must be present during times of need and interest, such as a crisis or the presentation of the annual school budget (sometimes a crisis in itself). The superintendent must be perceived as approachable and accommodating, patient and willing to listen. It's hard to build that persona one person at a time from behind an office desk. Time invested in interacting with the public is time well spent in developing trust and respect. It allows you to advocate for the school's interests and needs. It enables you to gain a better perspective on the norms and desires of the community members. You're not a leader without followers, and you can't enlist followers if there's distance and differences between the two parties.

As crowded as my calendar gets, the time I spend at community activities, like athletic games, concerts, and other venues where people congregate, actually saves me time in the long run. When people don't know you, don't have an idea of your values, beliefs, and philosophy, don't understand anything about you - that's when you lose time. In the world of business it's been said that it takes more time and money to regain a former or dissatisfied customer than it does to find and develop a new customer. I'd rather invest the time in building relationships and forging communication channels by meeting people in a proactive manner during normal times than trying to catch up and get acquainted during a time of distress and dissatisfaction.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get some rest.

No comments:

Post a Comment