How future supes grouped in Ohio for leadership lessons

A regional education service center brought intensive PD to educators on the path to the superintendency
By: | November 13, 2020
Pete Gorman leads an exercise at a recent session of the Superintendents Academy, which was customized for Ohio administrators.Peter Gorman leads an exercise at a session of the Superintendents Academy.

After a decade or so of offering the District Leadership Institute to its 30 member districts as a way to prepare educators aspiring to the superintendency or to support an office of the superintendent, leaders at the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio decided to up their game. “I felt it was time to press pause on our District Leadership Institute and look to a strong nationally recognized superintendent preparation partner,” says Tom Goodney, superintendent of the ESC. “So I did a very sophisticated thing. I picked up the phone and called Pete.”

That’s Peter Gorman, well known across the country for his work in developing education leadership teams. During his tenure at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, it won the 2011 Broad Prize in Urban Education for increasing student achievement and closing achievement gaps. Twenty people from his team there have since been appointed as superintendents nationally. Along with his responsibilities at Peter Gorman Leadership Associates, Gorman is now with the District Administration Leadership Institute as superintendent in residence. Also managing director of the National Superintendents Academy, he delivers intensive instruction on the academic, political, legal and logistical complexities, and the many demands, confronting school leaders today.

The Superintendents Academy, with each cohort attending three sessions, typically welcomes participants from all corners of the U.S. But as Gorman and Goodney talked, it became clear that a regional cohort customization of the program was a worthy idea. So Gorman spent many hours with Goodney’s team—mainly Dan Good, also a former superintendent—giving the content an Ohio emphasis. A big piece of that was finding superintendents from the area to share their leadership stories with participants during the sessions, two of which were able to take place in person with social distancing in place, and the final one taking place virtually this month.

“Columbus is a desirable place to live and work—one of few economies in Ohio that’s growing,” says Goodney. “So this is a very attractive place to live and work. And when our superintendencies open up, we tend to yield really good quality candidates. We’ve had five recent high-level office positions promoted to superintendent where the board didn’t have to do a search.”

Goodney believes his center’s work is one reason for that positive place the districts are in with leadership. “We try to give our boards confidence that their aspiring superintendents can come from within their own systems.”

But that’s not to discount the major learning curve involved in being ready to lead a district. “People have a general idea of what comes across the superintendent’s desk and what demands are placed on them. Then you’re actually in the job and there’s nothing that could have prepared you for that,” says Goodney.

He suggests other regional centers might consider a similar partnership with the National Superintendents Academy if they don’t have the capacity within the office to do all the logistical work, content development and marketing for a similar professional development effort. At the Central Ohio event, 24 of the 30 member districts sent an attendee to the Academy, with the center footing the bill.

That was even with the first session taking place just a few weeks into this unusual pandemic-focused school year. Attendees said it was outstanding programming and facilitation, shares Goodney. “Amid everything else they are doing right now, they were extremely glad to come. It was a welcome reprieve from what they were having to face day-to-day.”

To inquire about planning a customized Superintendents Academy, contact Amy Dujon at the DA Leadership Institute, (561) 622-6520  ext: 8727.

Melissa Ezarik is senior managing editor of DA.