After just over 100 days in my new role as interim superintendent for Franklin West schools, I’m taking the opportunity to reflect on the job so far. It’s hard to describe what the superintendent’s job actually is, but the way I explain it to elementary students is that the superintendent “works to make sure that the principals have everything they need to support the teachers so that teachers can do everything they need for students.” The students will shake their heads like it kind of makes sense, so I guess that definition works.
As superintendent, I spend a lot of time in meetings. I meet with principals, central office staff, teachers, other superintendents, parents, the teachers association and anyone else who needs my attention. In these meetings, I want to make sure that the needs of our students are met while maintaining my legal and fiscal obligations to the state and community. We work on professional development for teachers, budgets, grants, testing (both health and academic), communication and any other topic that comes up that will impact our schools and students.
Every day is different which keeps the job interesting and challenging. However, if all I did was sit in meetings all day every day, it would be easy to lose sight of the purpose of the job. It would be difficult to be a superintendent of schools without spending a lot of time actually in schools. And so, every week I make certain that I am able to be in our schools. This allows me to speak with the principals and teachers to make sure I know what they need. More importantly, being in schools gives me the opportunity to be with students.
I have played games with preschool students at Fletcher, experienced an all school assembly at GEMS, and researched and shared about “plants in Hawaii that curl up when you touch them” at the request of a BFA first grade student. I’ve read to third and fourth graders at BFA, learned about Alaska with MS students at GEMS, and judged a debate in AP US History in the high school at BFA. Some of those experiences were prearranged, but most of the time I can just walk into a classroom, say hello to students, ask what they are working on, and see how they are doing. Just this morning I got to see a student’s morning share, catch some math facts work, watch a game of “I Spy..” with letters, learn a little bit about buffaloes, and participate in a movement break. PS I can’t crab walk! (Yet.)
The superintendent job can be difficult at times. There have been disagreements and difficult conversations. We always work through them due to our shared beliefs about children. My time in classrooms keeps me centered and focused on the needs of all of our students. I make it a point to see what is happening as often as I can because in the words of Kenny Chesney, “that’s the good stuff”. And so far, I’ve seen a lot of good stuff in all of our schools in my first 100 or so days.
John Tague is the Superintendent at Franklin West Supervisory Union and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @jtague252