A school superintendent is the chief executive in a school district. The superintendent is tasked with ensuring the district accomplishes its goal of educating children with guidance from an elected school board. Running a school system is a challenging job. Few things garner more attention from parents than the education their children receive. The school board and superintendent are sure to hear passionate opinions on several sides of the issue, no matter what policy is under consideration. There is also the task of managing all school district personnel while considering the politics of every action can seem like a full-time job. Because there is no way to successfully micromanage a school district, being a good judge of talent is critical to a superintendent’s success. School boards often get outside help in recruiting candidates for superintendent positions like with city managers and other public and private chief executives. Headhunting firms recruit and vet candidates so that school board members do not have to spend their time doing so. These firms have much more expertise in recruitment than school board members do. The school board interviews the candidates once the headhunting firm provides a handful of candidates for consideration.

School superintendent

 A few board members or some high level staff members typically take the candidates around town to show them the school facilities as part of their interview visit. They will offer employment and negotiate contract terms with their new superintendent once he board decides which candidate they feel is best. Headhunting firms are often paid based on the newly hired superintendent’s salary. The school district pays an amount equivalent to several months’ pay. Districts pay some of the amount up front and the remainder when the superintendent begins employment. Superintendents are often required to hold master’s or doctoral degrees, preferably in education administration or a related field.  A bachelor’s degree may suffice, but postings are most frequently written so that candidates are required to have an advanced degree for candidates with a long tenure as a superintendent in other districts. School boards expect candidates for superintendent positions to have significant work experience in education administration with steady advancement through the ranks. Individuals hired into superintendent positions tend to be assistant superintendents in similar sized school districts or superintendents currently overseeing slightly smaller school districts. The school board sets broad policies for the district while the superintendent runs the operations of the district. School boards almost always seek advice from their superintendents before making policy decisions. The superintendent reports to the school board as the chief executive of a school district. Members of the school board are elected by the citizens who live within the school district’s geographic boundaries. Citizens hold school board members responsible for the performance of the district, and board members in turn hold the superintendent accountable. The politically and emotionally charged environment force a superintendent to be ready to explain issues and decision options clearly and concisely. While making the options clear so that the average citizen can understand and the average news reporter can summarize accurately, the superintendent must convey the nuance of policy choices.