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k-12 superintendent search

Excited Children in Science Class

The most important decision that a Board of Education will ever make is hiring a Superintendent.  

The Public School District in any community:

  • has the greatest depth and breadth of impact to children and families

  • is the primary mechanism for facilitating economic mobility

  • is one of the largest employers

  • is the 3rd or 4th question that companies and individuals ask about when considering relocation.


When led effectively, public schools have the potential to be a community’s greatest resource.

But can we be completely honest?  Searches for Public School Superintendents are generally awful.


Many firms who allegedly specialize in Superintendent searches are guilty of:

  • Cronyism. The firm presents candidates with whom they have financial relationships - they are consultants together, they expect that the presented candidate will hire their affiliated consulting firm for expensive projects, etc. It happens over and over in public education...

  • Lazy recruiting, with candidate lists generated primarily via database searches, responses to ads, recycled candidates, and the cronies described above.

  • Lazy vetting and discovery processes that fail to give board members the information they need to make good decisions.

  • Poor management of searches - poor communication, blown confidentiality, losing candidates, processes that violate state laws - all leading to mediocre results and poor public perception.

  • Treating candidates poorly - it can be so bad that strong candidates withdraw before Boards ever get to see them. Yes - it happens all the time.


It shouldn’t be this way.

I think I can do a better job.  I have been in your seat.  I have been a member of a dysfunctional board as well as a model board. When I joined the Board of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools in 2006, we were so broken that videos of board meetings from earlier in the year had been shown at national training sessions as examples of how NOT to behave. A bond referendum had failed 9 months earlier. When I left at the end of 2011, we had navigated through the Great Recession and massive budget cuts, emerged from Federal District Improvement Status, and won the Broad Prize.  We were successful because we hired outstanding leaders. To date, 20 leaders from that period have become Public School Superintendents.

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