Assistant superintendents supervise functional areas as assigned by their boss, the superintendent. The specific assignment of functions, departments or campuses depends on how the superintendent wants to organize central office staff. The superintendent takes into consideration the strengths, weaknesses, personalities and preferences of key staff members. The superintendent must play the hand he’s dealt at least for the time being, as with any executive. It can be time consuming to get rid of underperforming or troublesome staff and replace them with better fitting successors, particularly in government. The job descriptions for assistant superintendents are about as numerous as there are positions. However, two common types are found in many school districts. The first type is an assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. This position oversees the educational functions of the district. This position may supervise both professionals and principals who specialize in curriculum evaluation and instructional methods. The second type is an assistant superintendent for administration. This position oversees the non-education functions of the district. This position may supervise finance, human resources, maintenance and food service departments.

Assistant school superintendent


            Larger districts further parse out these two main types of assistant superintendent. This allows the assistant superintendents to have manageable spans of control. It also allows them to focus their efforts on one or a few functions. Assistant superintendents are hired using the normal government hiring process. Superintendents are responsible for selecting individuals to fill assistant superintendent positions. They often run these decisions by key members of the school board before they are finalized. Superintendents may use panel interviews when they gain alternative perspectives on candidates. Most of the jobs positions require an advanced degree, preferably in education administration. Teachers and principals who aspire to central office leadership often pursue master’s degrees early- or mid-career. Districts also want assistant superintendents to have held progressively responsible roles in education administration. This is not a position for new managers or those new to education administration. Assistant superintendents oversee operations, staff and budget of their assigned areas. They are one link in a chain of accountability that ends with the voters. Voters hold the school board responsible for everything that goes on in the district. The board in turn holds the superintendent accountable for the policy direction he or she gives the board and how  well the board’s directives are carried out. The superintendent holds assistant superintendents and other direct reports accountable for their work. And on it goes to the bottom of the organizational chart. The superintendent cannot work in a vacuum. Assistant superintendents help the superintendent make decisions.  The superintendent must rely on the information assistant superintendents give and trust their judgment and analysis of policy implications because assistant superintendents have a better feel for what is happening in their assigned areas. This feel, judgment and analysis allows assistant superintendents to contribute to strategic planning processes for assigned areas and on district-wide issues.