Diana Baker Freeman Image
Diana Baker Freeman
Sr. Manager, Modern Governance Advocacy & Iniatives

Technology can streamline superintendent succession and onboarding

September 1, 2023
0 min read
Technology can streamline superintendent succession and onboarding

With approximately one-third of superintendents leaving the profession in the next few years, transition is something school boards need to be thinking about and managing proactively.

In this second article of our three part-series, we explore how technology can be used for seamless succession and onboarding. (If you missed part one on using technology to successfully navigate the superintendent search, you can read that here.)

Change and transition with a new superintendent

Change can be difficult. Even when the change comes with the promise of a better state, it causes discomfort. You can liken change to an acrobatic act: you must jump off, swing out, let go, grab the second bar, gain momentum and — hopefully — land safely on the next platform.

Any of those parts are difficult, but the often-overlooked middle may be the hardest — letting go. When an acrobat reaches for the next bar, they must let go of the first or it will be impossible to reach that new bar. Hanging in the air is terrifying for most.

Superintendent transitions can be like this — for the new superintendent, the board, and the staff.

The job of the board is to help the new superintendent they just hired to be successful, while the job of the new superintendent is to help the staff they will now be teaming with to feel comfortable about their new leader.

So, whose job is it to manage the transition — that hang-time in the air that causes so much discomfort? It belongs to the entire leadership team, using tools available to them. The right technology can support every stakeholder, creating a safe space for new leadership to thrive. Managing the change process is key to success in the era that is commencing under new leadership.

Learning the district

It has been said that change is the what; transition is the how. Getting the transition right will go a long way toward the successful launch of a new administration. Most superintendents come in with a plan — often referred to as a 90 or 100-day plan. However, as that plan commences — or even before — there needs to be a transition plan.

Transparency is the key to a transition plan. Josh Starr of the International Center for Leadership in Education states, “Leaders need to be clear about what they’re doing, with whom, and when. They need to be clear about the problem they are trying to solve, the criteria for who is going to help in the process, who is going to be spoken to, what data will be reviewed, and what the timelines are for gathering information, meeting with people, and reporting out.”

Technology can help keep this data in a centralized location that serves as the go-to, sole source of truth, where committees of parents, community members, and other key stakeholders can access shared data. A public board management solution, such as Diligent Community, can provide access based on committee membership and role, allowing committees to work effectively during the transition period.

Making data-driven decisions

Understanding the overall health of the district — including financial, facility and enrollment trends — is the key to knowledgeable, data-driven decisions. Concurrently with the committee meetings, the data gleaned should be tied back to the 90-day plan.

The reports and needs assessments need to be logically mapped to this plan for it to be cohesive and relevant. This data should be used to inform decisions. An entry play created before actual residency should be modified as information and needs of the new district are uncovered.

Goal tracking features, like those found in Diligent Community, allow for updates and changes with the accompanying documentation attached. A new superintendent may not know how certain decisions were made, where existing contracts are or how to retrieve accountability documents from past years.

When a superintendent can come in and quickly make informed decisions, it can save time and money for the district. This goes back to transition, as opposed to change.

As a side note, a departing superintendent that leaves this same data easily searchable for her former district will demonstrate professional commitment to the district she leaves behind. Cloud-based programs that are populated with searchability, technological hygiene and a wealth of data to substantiate decisions create healthy districts that can navigate transitions more easily.

Communicating in a secure way

As the new superintendent forges ahead with their entry plan, one of the easiest —and yet most difficult — groups to deal with will be the board. In many ways the board is ahead of the rest of the district in the transition. They have been planning for it for a longer time and have known the new superintendent longer. Because they hired the new superintendent, they have the proverbial “skin in the game.”

As previously mentioned, the board’s role once the superintendent arrives is to help them be successful in the transition. They need to help them navigate the “how.” The board can help lead the superintendent in introductions to the key stakeholders in the community, the staff and business and organization leaders.

The committees and teams that form during the transition or entry phase eventually become part of the plan that will drive the district’s vision and goals. Board members need to be active participants in the process. While not every board member will be on every committee (indeed open meeting laws would complicate mass attendance), their access to the board portal should give them full access to the workings of all the committees.

Some old ways of doing things will fall away and new ones will begin. This is true for the board and staff. Having insight into the process will help the board adopt new strategies. It will also help the board serve as a stabilizing force in the district when staff members look to them for reassurance.

The role of a board often ebbs and flows. During transition periods, the board will step up and assume more of a leadership role for the district. Planning for this in advance and having documents stored for searchability is part of the board’s role, as they should always be planning for succession.

As they partner with the new executive of the district, communication will likely be more frequent. The security of a board management platform allows efficient recall and hygienic opportunities for sharing data and information.

A successful transition with a safe landing

As the acrobat drops the safety of the last district and hangs in the balance between old and new, everyone holds their breath waiting to see the outcome.

It will be successful with the board holding the safety net while the new superintendent grabs on to the needs, traditions and hopes of the new district creating a new safe space to land. Diligent Community will help at all phases from jumping off to letting go, to the safe landing.


Your Data Matters

At our core, transparency is key. We prioritize your privacy by providing clear information about your rights and facilitating their exercise. You're in control, with the option to manage your preferences and the extent of information shared with us and our partners.

© 2024 Diligent Corporation. All rights reserved.