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Chapter 5

Building a Relationship with the Superintendent


5:1 What is the role of the superintendent relative to the school board?

Consider the superintendent the chief executive officer of the school district who reports to the board of directors — the school board. The superintendent is the only employee who is employed and evaluated directly by the board. All other administrators, teachers and staff are hired by the superintendent, pending board approval. Teacher and administrator contracts must be approved by a majority vote of the full membership of the board. The board could delegate to administration the hiring of support staff personnel who are not required to have a contract underneath section 118.22 or section 118.24 of the state statutes, but the board-approved budget must fund these support staff positions.

While the school board is responsible for setting the vision and goals for the district, it is the superintendent who implements the policies to attain the goals the board sets. The school board tells the superintendent what it wants done; the superintendent determines the best way to do it. The superintendent is also the board’s principal advisor — identifying operational needs and recommending policies for board action.

5:2 How do I communicate with the superintendent?

You should feel free to communicate in any way you are comfortable. Usually, the superintendent is more than willing to meet with you, discuss issues on the phone or respond by email. The important thing is not how to communicate, but that you do communicate with the superintendent, especially when you have questions about agenda items being discussed at your board meeting. As mentioned earlier in this publication, when you do contact or ask to meet with the superintendent, try to remain cognizant of the superintendent’s other responsibilities and the other demands on the superintendent’s time.

5:3 When and how does the board evaluate the superintendent?

Section 121.02(1)(q) of state statutes requires the board to evaluate the superintendent at the end of the superintendent’s first year of employment and at least once every three years thereafter. The evaluation should be done according to procedures developed by the board in consultation with the superintendent.

Leadership assessment is an integral part of any school district progress assessment. An environment of continuous improvement requires a developmental approach to evaluation. Evaluation of the superintendent has not been established under the Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness Model. However, school districts need to be ready and informed by setting a tone for executive leadership evaluation.

The superintendent’s evaluation should be a comprehensive and objective review of their performance during the preceding year. The evaluation should be based on a consensus of the board’s assessment of the superintendent’s performance relative to the stated objectives for the position. The board should also consult the superintendent’s contract to determine if it includes provisions related to evaluation.

The superintendent should be provided with a written copy of the board’s evaluation and should discuss it with the board, most typically in closed session.

The WASB offers a Superintendent Evaluation Framework that recognizes the need for a collaborative development process to support the continuous growth of the superintendent. The evaluation should be used to foster this growth and to improve the overall leadership within the district. The WASB Framework includes evaluation requirements, key considerations, prompts and questions for the first-year superintendent, standards-based rubrics for the beyond-first-year superintendent, a sample performance narrative evaluation document, information about superintendent goals, a job description audit tool and sample artifacts.

WASB consultants can assist your school district in developing a superintendent evaluation system which complies with Wisconsin statutes, incorporates your job description, and builds on the concepts of continuous improvement.

5:4 As a new board member, how should I approach the superintendent about making a change without being overly aggressive?

You should feel free to contact the superintendent or the board president to discuss your idea and have it either put on the agenda or referred to committee.

If you are tactful and ask thoughtful questions about the way the board currently operates and why, you won’t be perceived as pushy. If your suggestion relates to district operations, you should first ask yourself if you are getting too involved in the management of the school district. Even so, if you do it tactfully, the superintendent will be willing to discuss how the school district functions and be open to new ideas.

5:5 How do I gain the respect of the superintendent and other administrators?

As with any relationship, you have to earn it. Respect the superintendent and other administrators. They’re the education experts. Seek their advice. Listen to what they have to say. Ask thoughtful questions. Be open, honest and direct. Take time to learn about the school environment and issues that may be unique to your district prior to making suggestions and trying to effect change.

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