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What makes a superintendent great and why it matters for Jacksonville

Our community shares the responsibility of making Jacksonville a city where students receive an excellent education and acquire the knowledge and skills to become productive, contributing citizens. As the leader of our local public education system, Duval County’s next school superintendent will play a critical role in carrying out that vision. Now that the superintendent search is well underway, the community has multiple upcoming opportunities to share opinions about what kind of superintendent Jacksonville needs and ultimately, who should be chosen. Before we can form these viewpoints, we need to know: what does a superintendent do? And what makes a superintendent great?

What does a superintendent do?

The superintendent is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a school district. He or she is the face of the district, overseeing its day-to-day management and responding to school-related issues.

The key areas of responsibilities are:

  • Educational standards and programming: Anything pertaining to the overall academic performance of the students.

  • Budgeting: identifying sources of revenue and determining how the money is spent in the best interest of students--including facilities updating or maintenance.

  • Staffing: hiring central office senior staff and placement of principals.

  • Stakeholder engagement: maintaining and leveraging relationships within and outside of the district--particularly with the governmental officials, school board members, corporate partners, philanthropic leaders and consumers of the system.

  • Compliance: ensuring the district’s practices are in compliance with state-defined policies and procedures.

Nearly every decision made by a superintendent affects teachers in one way or another and we know that our community cares about its teachers and believes that high-quality teachers are necessary to high-quality education:

  • According to our 2018 Duval County school-level Teachers of the Year survey, 83% believe “attraction and retention of high-quality teachers” should be the superintendent’s biggest priority, then “follow through with action after discussions” (62%) and “equitable distribution of resources and services” (52%).

  • Our 2018 Annual Perceptions Poll echoed this ranking of priorities: 39.1% of respondents selected “attraction and retention of teachers,” 13.5% chose “equitable distribution of resources and services" and 10.9% believe it is important to “follow through with action after discussions.” When asked what matters most when picking a school, the majority of poll participants (41.6%) selected “reputation for good teachers.”

  • Community organizations—specifically, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), The Community Foundation, and the Urban Education Symposium (UES)—are also focused on teachers. UES believes the next superintendent should have professional experience in “teaching in an urban district and experience in identifying, recruiting, and retaining the best and brightest teachers[.]” The NAACP wants a superintendent who will “[w]ork cooperatively with the school board to recruit and retain excellent teachers.”

Given the impact a superintendent has on teachers and knowing how much the community values our teachers, it is vital that we voice our support for great teachers--recruiting and retaining them--as the top priority for Duval’s next superintendent.

What makes a superintendent high-quality?

A great superintendent always asks: “what is best for students?” This question guides his or her decision-making, even when faced with tough choices and competing demands.

A high-quality systems leader has three capabilities:

  • The ability to see the larger system

  • Fostering reflections and more generative conversations

  • Shifting from the collective focus from reactive problem solving to co-creating the future.

Over the next two weeks, DCPS is seeking input from the community as the firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates begins actively searching for candidates. We encourage you to attend these meetings and contribute your voice to the conversation.

·      Mar. 1, 6 p.m. at Wells Fargo Historic Springfield Community Center

·      Mar. 5, 6 p.m. at Samuel Wolfson High School

·      Mar. 8, 6 p.m. at The Legends Center 

·      Mar. 12, 6 p.m. at Robert E. Lee High School

In order for Jacksonville to reach its potential, we must work together to strengthen our education system, which starts with the superintendent. These meetings are an opportunity for each neighborhood to share what our local schools need in our next leader. We look forward to seeing you there!

Additional Reading

What do we expect from our next superintendent?

GUEST POST: Arlington community tells school board what it wants in the next superintendent 

Duval's school-level Teachers of the Year share what they want in next superintendent

Duval County School Board requests additional data to assist with superintendent search

Leadership in Focus: Choosing the Next Superintendent