What’s been your greatest challenge since becoming a superintendent?

Last evening I had the great pleasure of participating in an interview with the 2013 Cohort of the NYS Superintendent Development Program, conducted through SUNY Oswego.  This was the Cattaraugus-Allegany-Erie Cohort and included administrators in districts around here. The team asked some great questions and I ended the interview wondering if my answers were at all similar to those of my colleagues who may have been interviewed previously.

I’m thinking it could be interesting and useful to new administrators (and to me) if I do a series of blog posts based on the  Cohort questions. I’ll post each question and give my answer,  and then I  invite conversation about my answer or tell us how YOU would answer the question. I would love to read how my fellow administrators from across the country think  and also how our school community feels about the questions and the superintendency. In other words, how would you like your superintendent to think about each question? Hopefully I’ll be on the mark but if not I can learn from your thinking—I can improve and do a better job for the RCS community.

So here’s the first one.

What has been your greatest challenge since becoming a Superintendent? Have you found the position to be what you expected?

My greatest challenge has been to always make the best decisions for our school, our students and families, and our taxpayers. As hard as I may try it’s always a challenge to get it all right. I really want our District to be the best that it can be for the future success of our students, for our employees and for our community as a whole. Wanting it doesn’t make it happen. The challenge is sometimes knowing which course is best in any decision and often knowing that someone will be upset with the outcome. It’s knowing that I’ve considered all of the information at hand–often times information others don’t have–and made the best decision for the District. That’s my responsibility and really no one else’s but the business official and the Board of Education.

What do I mean? Well, everyone has his or her own point of view, perspective, opinion. It’s based on the role that the person has within the organization–teacher or parent or student  or support staff employee–and the personal experiences of that person. I often can’t share all of the information that leads to a decision and can be the only one with all of the pieces of the puzzle. So my challenge is in building trust and making the best decisions possible so that members of our school community can have faith in me even when they only see the edges of the puzzle or problem I’m trying to solve. The only way I know how to build that trust is by always telling the truth, sharing what I can, and having the  best interest of the District in mind— which can sometimes be in conflict with the interest of an individual. The only way I know how to make the best decisions is by considering every angle, soliciting input from others, analyzing and then having the courage to make the decision, no matter how hard.

And the second part of that question: asking if I’ve found the position to be what I expected? I say 95% of it, yes. Having worked in other districts for some incredible leaders, I learned from some of the very best–mentors like Cindy Miner, Deb Ormsby, Kerry Courtney, Elizabeth Bradley, Janeil Rey. My time learning from Charles Rinaldi, Supt. at Gowanda Central, especially about school finance, was invaluable. The 5% I didn’t expect? All of the time I spend listening to the school attorneys!

I hope to hear from you–Question #2 tomorrow.

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