Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Generally, school district superintendents are selected by a school board of a local school district. They are typically given overall responsibility for

  • personnel selection

  • appointment

  • preparation of operating budgets

  • implementation of school policies and regulations.

  • The superintendent primarily supervises public schools in the district

  • evaluates performance of teachers

  • in some cases, recruits and dismisses school staff

  • acts as a check on the power of school principals.

  • The short-term nature of the commitment, as well as the opportunity to serve in more of a consulting capacity to a school system, made the offer appealing to the would-be retiree. “An interim superintendent can be more open and honest than someone hired into a more permanent role

  • to support the board and school administrators through the search for and transition to new leadership. "The search process can be very taxing for the board and the remaining members of the leadership team," she says. "It provokes a lot of soul-searching as people try to envision how their roles might change." Kehoe found this role as a sounding board for their concerns and aspirations one of the more rewarding dimensions of the job

  • "Retired" superintendents make good candidates for interim roles, says Roy Dexheimer ('69, Ed.D.), especially if there are systemic problems or important initiatives that need to be addressed while a search is under way. Because they are practiced professionals, they bring experience, confidence, and objectivity to the enterprise. And because their tenure is temporary by definition, they can set terms and take risks that a more permanent employee cannot.

  • By way of example, Dexheimer tells of a colleague who was being wooed by a notoriously difficult board. The candidate opted not to sign a contract. When the board members questioned this, he told them, "The first time you say no to one of my recommendations, I'm out of here." And they still hired him.

  • When Dexheimer was negotiating the terms of his current position as interim superintendent of the South Seneca schools, such strong-arm tactics weren't necessary. He did, however, make it clear that he wasn't interested in a caretaker role. "I told them that I intended to act like a superintendent, making decisions and advancing new initiatives." Dexheimer, who retired as head of the Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES in 1999, saw that the curricular challenges the school system faced couldn't wait. "The district wasn't getting good outcomes, so addressing that has been a major focus of my work here," he explains. The position also affords him ample opportunity to mentor the fledgling administrators working under him, all of whom are probationary "I find that very satisfying," he says.

  • Although six-month assignments are more typical, Eckhardt says his Pittsford stint may extend well into a second year because it involves a major facilities initiative now stalled in the budget approval process. Getting the budget referendum passed promises to be a significant challenge, one that most boards would rather not foist on a new superintendent. He sees his role as one of clearing the way for new leadership, "resolving existing problems, rather than leaving a major imprint." Once that's done, he'll be ready to shift back into his life as adjunct professor/educational consultant.

  • "I want to stay active," he explains, "but I'm not interested in putting in 75 hours a week forever." Kehoe and Dexheimer concur.

David Jennings has served as Minneapolis' interim superintendent since Carol Johnson left the position to head up the public school system in Memphis, Tenn. He had originally been the Minneapolis School Board's first choice to take up the position permanently, but withdrew his name in October after leaders from the city's African American community criticized his appointment. He is stepping down on June 30, and Thandiwe Peebles, the school board's unanimous choice to permanently fill the position, will take up the reins following contract negotiations. Interim Superintendent Jennings reflects on his time at the helm of Minneapolis Public Schools and its future challenges.

Noriega was the guest on KRIS 6 News at Noon Tuesday, and at that time he kind of laid out the role of the interim superintendent. He said the district is not necessarily looking for an interim to come in and make any significant changes, but simply to keep the district heading in the same direction until a permanent superintendent is appointed.

CORPUS CHRISTI - A former CCISD chief of staff is the district's new interim superintendent. Mary Kelley is returning to CCISD. She was the school district's chief of staff when she left in June of 2004 and for the time being she'll hold the top position. But that decision was not unanimous.

After an hour and ten minutes behind closed doors the board returned to make the selection. Trustee Harry Williams nominated Mary Kelley to be the interim superintendent. The vote was 4-2. Kelley had expressed interest in the job as early as December.

The board ultimately felt her 30 years of experience as a local teacher and administrator set her apart, along with the fact that she's been gone less than two years.

"In the end, the decision of the four people that voted for Mary Kelley came because of her familiarity with the district, and familiarity with the programs in place in the district," said board president Dr. Manuel Flores.

Luis Garza and Bill Clark voted against the selection and Vicki Rothschild left before the vote was even taken. The dissenting voters didn't return calls for comment, but we're told there were other candidates with more overall superintendent experience.

Dr. Flores said he's not bothered by the apparent division. He said, "Everybody has their favorites, and everybody has the people that they think can do the best job. I'm not afraid of 4-2 and 4-3 votes because that means that it was discussed thoroughly."

Kelley is expected to start as early as next Monday. Although a contract still has to be worked out, Kelley will likely be paid at a rate of about $130,000 a year. However, as an interim employee, she'll be paid on a weekly basis. The board hopes to name a permanent superintendent by June 1.

Online Reporter: Bart Bedsole

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