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Achieving Success for New and Aspiring Superintendents

Achieving Success for New and Aspiring Superintendents
A Practical Guide

First Edition


November 2010 | 328 pages | Corwin

"Callan and Levinson illustrate the complexities of superintendent's job and provide concrete strategies to proactively address them—a nice overview to start with and reference to use over time."
—Peter Dillon, Superintendent
Berkshire Hills Regional School District, Stockbridge, MA

"This book provides valuable information for aspiring and new superintendents. I wish this resource had been available when I was considering the superintendency."
—Marie Blum, Superintendent
Canaseraga Central School District, NY

An expert guide to becoming a successful superintendent

Veteran superintendents Mary Frances Callan and William Levinson provide engaging examples and practical advice based on years of experience in this comprehensive how-to guide for aspiring and new superintendents. They believe that understanding all aspects of the superintendency is critical to developing expertise and that those who master a wide array of leadership and organizational skills significantly increase their chances for success. Offering both the benefits of their knowledge and a vision for the future, the authors cover a full range of topics, including:

  • Keys to providing exceptional instructional leadership
  • Strategic planning, goal setting, and decision making
  • Budgeting, negotiations and collective bargaining
  • Effective communication with staff, the board, unions, and the media

This unique reference focuses on the interconnections between leadership, organization, and action and provides tools for assessing the most appropriate response to any on-the-job situation.

About the Authors
1. Becoming a Superintendent
Getting Ready

The Application Process


Site Visits

The Final Step: Your Contract


2. Transitioning to Your New District
Managing Your Transition

Addressing Personal Issues


3. Getting Started: Organizing to Lead
Scheduling for Success

Other Responsibilities


4. Moving the District Forward
Decision Making

Mastering the Budget

Improving Teaching and Learning

Goal Setting and Evaluation


5. Completing Year One, Planning Year Two: A Continuous Cycle
Determining Your Legacy Goals

Planning the Final Six Months of the School Year


6. Working With a School Board
The Basics

Communicating With the Board

Board Meetings


7. Working With Employee Groups
Establish Relationships

An Overview of Collective Bargaining

Issues Influencing Collective Bargaining


8. Negotiating Agreements
Getting Started

Organizing Negotiations

At the Table

Settling Compensation

Ratification and Next Steps


9. Communicating: Enhanced Decisions
Communicating With Parents and the Public

Working With the Media

Communicating With Staff and Students

Final Considerations


10. Looking Ahead
The Challenges


Final Thoughts


"'Achieving Success' is a vital resource to ensure success as a superintendent. My copy has become a workbook filled with highlights, notes and worn pages as I frequently refer to it for planning, board relations, goal setting, and negotiations. It is the one resource I refer to for practical guidance."

Bruce Burns, Superintendent
Moraga School District, Moraga, CA

"I read and used 'Achieving Success' before I became superintendent, during my first year as superintendent, and as I continue to serve as superintendent. It is the practical guide and resource for understanding the wide array of responsibilities and nuances of the job."

Bruce Burns, Superintendent
Moraga School District, Moraga, CA

"As an experienced superintendent for more than 20 years, I am frequently asked for advice. I am thrilled that this book is available, as it is the perfect gift for aspiring superintendents! It is written in an engaging style, which provides clear guidelines on how to apply for the position and how to succeed once selected.

Gail Anderson Uilkema, Retired Superintendent
Piedmont School District in California

"Mary Frances Callan and Bill Levinson have provided a great service to educators who aspire to become superintendents. Their book includes insightful information on how to become a superintendent and how to succeed in your first three years. This book is a must-read for superintendents interested in improving their leadership skills."

Jeff Harding, Superintendent
Healdsburg Unified School District, CA

"This book provides valuable information for aspiring and new superintendents. I wish this resource had been available when I was considering the superintendency."

Marie Blum, Superintendent
Canaseraga Central School District, NY

"As a second-year superintendent, I found this book to be extremely helpful. It validated and reinforced the work of my first year, offering clear signposts to keep me moving toward desired outcomes while avoiding the myraid landmines. The chapters on getting organized, planning, and working with school boards were especially poignant and useful."

Fred Brill, Superintendent and Instructor
University of California, Berkeley Principal Leadership Institute

"This is a great resource for aspiring and experienced superintendents. There are many practical ideas educational leaders can use immediately to become more effective."

Fred Mahary, Superintendent
Alta Community School District. LA

"Achieving Success reminds new and aspiring superintendents about the complexities of the job and affords concrete strategies to proactively address them—a nice overview to start with and reference to check in on over time."

Peter Dillon, Superintendent
Berkshire Hills Regional School District, Stockbridge, MA

"This is a practical guide for those at the beginning of superintendency, written by veteran superintendents who are, astute, introspective and reflective. I applaud these authors for sharing experiences, wisdom and special insights with anyone contemplating one of the toughest jobs in America."

Perry Berkowitz, Coordinator of Educational Leadership Programs
College of Saint Rose, Albany, NY

"The authors have created an excellent resource, providing an overview of the most critical aspects one will encounter during the first three years in the job. The book is a collection of practical ideas written in an engaging style."

George Manthey, Assistant Executive Director
ACSA Educational Services
Key features

There are a number of special features in this book. For those who aspire to be superintendents there is detailed information on how to prepare for the position and the application process. We include what to expect during the interview and any site visitation. For those newly selected there is information on contracts and the transition period as well as what to do during the first year.

We include information on strategic planning, goal setting, superintendent and administrative evaluation, meeting structures, and decision making. We provide detailed information on how to master the district's finances, work with a board and unions, lead negotiations and communicate. More importantly we focus on how to be an effective educational leader of teaching and learning.

There is also guidance on topics not normally covered in other books. For example, we address personal issues that confront new superintendents such as where to live, the effects of the job on your family and personal life, and community expectations. Throughout the book we focus on the interconnection between leadership, organization, and personal behavior.

For superintendents in their second or third years discussions are included on how to delve into the complexities of the position rather than just view each succeeding year as a repeat of year one. The importance of instituting and maintaining an "18 Month Planning Process" is stressed. We include eleven challenges that face superintendents in each succeeding year including how to provide effective leadership in a changing organization. The book concludes with a discussion of when it is time think about moving on and the implications of the decision to stay or leave a district.


Sample Materials & Chapters



For instructors

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