By Dr. Amy Burkman
Senior Manager of Assessment & Accreditation, School of Education, American Public University System
Superintendents work closely with district administrators and school board members, and, while these stakeholders are important to the success of the district, what about the front-line educators? Approximately 500 teachers were surveyed in a suburban district outside of Fort Worth, Texas and their responses revealed four themes of what teachers wish superintendents understood.
Theme 1: Staying in Touch with the Classroom
Overall, teachers felt that those in the role of superintendent were too far removed from the classroom to be effective. Superintendents need to understand the unique needs of special education students and the increasingly complicated laws pertaining to the assessment and evaluation of these students. Teachers also felt that superintendents need to spend time in classrooms, perhaps as substitute or visiting teachers, in order to stay in touch with classroom management issues and budgeting needs.
Theme 2: School District Loyalty
Teachers felt that those in the role of superintendent did not encourage teachers to grow as professionals or to remain loyal to a school district. Teachers felt that the lack of respect given through the budgeting process and the inconsistency of rule enforcement negated their hard work in the classroom. This lack of respect manifests as a superintendent’s willingness to overrule campus decisions, in a lack of support from the central office, and in a lack of financial support through budgets and raises. Good teachers need to be recognized, not ignored, and superintendents need to be purposeful in their recognition and praise of these teachers.
Theme 3: Professional Development Encouragement
A third theme was the need for targeted and supportive professional development. Many of the participants felt that the superintendent made blanket professional development decisions for the district, subjecting teachers to professional development outside of their fields or on topics that are not aligned to campus goals. This misuse of professional development time reduced time for teachers in the classroom and prohibited teachers from meeting the needs of the students over time.
Theme 4: District-Wide Performance Standards
Finally, teachers felt the superintendent needed to make sure that standards were high for student, faculty, and staff performance across the district. While the needs of campuses may be different, the lowering of expectations does not increase positive culture and climate and breeds discontent across the district. The expectations of students, staff, and faculty should be clearly articulated and closely monitored.
These themes illustrate for superintendents priorities and information needs from teachers’ perspectives. These themes also make clear the types of support that teachers would like to receive and when the support would be most appreciated.
About the Author
Dr. Burkman has over 15 years of experience as a K-12 educator, as a teacher, librarian and administrator. Dr. Burkman has also served as a professor of educational leadership, first in a part-time capacity and then full time, for the past seven years. In addition to working as an educator, she has also been a provider of professional development for the Texas Education Service Center for Region 11 and several school districts in Texas. Dr. Burkman received a Master’s Degree in Library Sciences from Texas Woman’s University, where she was also inducted in Beta Phi Mu, the International Library & Information Studies Honor Society and she was awarded her doctorate from Texas Christian University.