Superintendent search surveys: Let’s look at the big questions

Some district school boards ask simply for broad community feedback while others offer extensive lists of skills, characteristics and experiences.

Ever wonder what superintendent search surveys are asking school communities in other districts? We did a little research to show you the questions being asked in the K12 leadership vetting process during this time of high turnover and busy hiring.

Some district school boards ask simply for broad community feedback on the superintendent search. Montgomery County Schools in Maryland gave respondents a single, open-ended prompt: “Provide the desired characteristics, skills or experiences that a successful candidate must have in order to be superintendent for Montgomery County Public Schools.”

The school board for the Washoe County School District in Nevada has identified six finalists in its search for a new leader. Its survey asked stakeholders to describe each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. Fall River Public Schools in Massachusetts asks more detailed questions, such as:

  • What personal and professional skills will be required of the superintendent to serve us well over the next 12-24 months and beyond?
  • What do you see as the most important tasks the superintendent should be taking on immediately in Fall River?
  • What challenges will the next superintendent and the school committee face over the next 12-24 months that need attention?
  • What achievements should we expect from the person we select that will demonstrate a successful superintendency? In other words, what should the key accomplishments be and what would success look like?

Superintendent search surveys coast-to-coast

The Alamance-Burlington School System in North Carolina is surveying stakeholders to place importance on a few dozen leadership characteristics. For instance, users can rank “Communicates well with people of all races and socioeconomic status” from “extremely important” to “not at all important.”

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Other skills covered by Alamance-Burlington’s survey include “Is able to develop and effectively communicate a vision for the school system,” “Supports firm discipline” and “Will be highly visible in the schools.”

Livermore Valley Joint USD in California starts its superintendent search survey with four open-ended questions about the district’s strengths, the challenges a new superintendent will likely face, what the candidate should know about the community, and the qualities the new leader should possess.

Respondents are then asked to rank the importance of professional skills, such as having worked in California education, turning around and transforming school districts, growing academic achievement among all learners and speaking multiple languages.

Community feedback

Many districts are also sharing the results of their superintendent search surveys. The Ames Community School District in Iowa received 631 responses to its survey and found the community is focused on five key characteristics:

  • Relationship builder and politically astute
  • Pedagogical expertise
  • Management and leadership skills
  • Communicator extraordinaire
  • Culturally competent

*Note: The surveys linked above may have closed or expired and will no longer be accessible. 

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is the managing editor of District Administration and a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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