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Superintendent Notes, August 2017

From the Region One Superintendent’s Desk:

August 2017

To the Region One School Community,

Over the years, even recently, there have been questions about the leadership roles in Region One. What is the role of the Central Office? How does that compare with the role of the principal?

It’s important to know that the role and responsibilities of both positions have changed significantly over the years. No Child Left Behind (2001) put focus on each and every student’s learning. Prior to this legislation, there was far less focus on monitoring each student’s learning. Previous beliefs and practices were that certain students would be college bound, some students would go immediately to a job after high school, and there would be students who would “ just make it through” and hopefully receive a diploma. There were also students, particularly those with special needs or those considered troubled or “at risk”, leaving school without a plan for their future. 

While No Child Left Behind is past, we are still bound by the law to focus on students and to track their academic growth. Through the new Every Student Succeeds Act, the emphasis in education is on individualized learning. The law enables each state to create a more balanced system of support and accountability in order for youth to be productive and engaged citizens, prepared for 21st century college and careers. Schools are still held accountable to monitor each student’s learning.

What does all of this have to do with the role of the superintendent and the principal? In fact, both roles are very coupled. Central office leaders today are expected to do more than manage buses and the budgets. The role of superintendent is connected to students and their learning, as it is for the principal.  

The largest research study on superintendents and their impact on learning involved 2,817 districts and the achievement scores of 3.4 million students (2006). It showed that effective superintendents:
- Engage in collaborative goal setting. They include all relevant stakeholders, including other central office staff, principals, and board members in establishing goals for their schools.
- Use a goal-setting process that results in non-negotiable goals in student achievement and classroom instruction. Effective superintendents set specific achievement targets and ensure that everyone consistently uses research-based instructional strategies in all classrooms to reach these targets.
- Work with local boards of education to ensure that these goals for achievement and instruction remain the primary focus.
- Continually monitor student achievement progress toward the goals and uses these as the driving force in the schools. 
- Ensure that the necessary resources are allocated to accomplish the district’s goals. This includes time, money, personnel and materials.

Another study (2003) was focused on principal leadership. It was a meta-analysis of 2,802 principals nationally and correlated with 1.4 million student achievement scores. It answered these important questions:

1. Does principal leadership have an effect on student achievement in the school?
Yes.
2. Are there specific leadership responsibilities that, when done skillfully, correlate with student achievement?
21 leadership responsibilities were identified that correlate to student achievement. While they do not represent every task a principal does in their school day or year, these 21 are the most essential to improving student achievement. Some of these include: being a change agent; communicating ideals and beliefs; having knowledge of curriculum, instruction, and assessment; and monitoring and evaluating.
3. What practices do principals use to fulfill these leadership responsibilities?
There are specific tasks associated with these 21 responsibilities that positively
influence student achievement. 

The responsibilities of Central Office, which includes both the superintendent and the assistant superintendent, and the building principal are much the same. We are to focus on how well our students are learning and ensure that implementation of research based practices is being done well. Principals see that student learning and progress occurs in their building; superintendents are to oversee that each school is making progress. This is accountability. This is what students and parents should expect of us and what we owe them.

Board Policy for Region One reads: “The Region One Board recognizes that the key work is to establish and promote a clear vision of student achievement as the top priority of the District. The superintendent will ensure development and implementation of a district-wide program for student achievement improvement that engages district stakeholders in a continuous improvement planning process that provides for annual review and revision as needed and reports to the community”.

As we go forward into a new school year, I will continue to write about what is taking place in Region One and communicate with our students, staff, parents and community. It’s my pleasure to serve as your superintendent. Working together, I believe our schools can and will continually improve and provide a high quality education for our students.  

Dr. Pam Vogel  

Waters, T., Marzano, R., & McNulty, B. (2003). Balanced leadership: What 30 years of research tells us about the effect of leadership on student achievement. Aurora, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.
Waters, T. & Marzano, R. (2006). School leadership that works: The Effect of Superintendent Leadership on Student Achievement.  Aurora, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.