Partnerships and the Role of the Superintendent

by Thomas E. Persing

This is an open invitation to all superintendents of public school systems to rise up and seize the high ground by exercising your leadership. The superintendent's leadership is the vital ingredient for initiating, nurturing and sustaining a partnership program. This is not to say that others within the school district do not play vital and important roles. Notwithstanding, it is the superintendent who possesses the power to make or break a university/school district partnership.

In the current embattled arena of public education, it is commonplace to brand the superintendent as the culprit for high taxes and poor performance of the students under his or her charge. Therefore, one might ask why should another task be assumed by an obviously overworked individual. That is a fair and reasonable question which deserves an equally fair and reasonable answer.

Having been in education over forty years, and as a superintendent about thirty of those years, please allow me to share some personal experiences and observations. First, a university or college partnership will help you escape from the trap of day­to­day, operational, mundane, mediocre and mind numbing chores that demand your attention and time, yet destroy your intellectual growth. That is, a partnership with a university will present an opportunity for you to engage and interact with academic scholars. This will give you time to explore ideas which will reinvigorate your professional life. Secondly, a university partnership will give the Board of School Directors, the professional and support staff, the media, and community a chance to view you as a leader who gives importance to what we are all about, i.e., academics, learning, curriculum, and children. Thirdly, partnerships will enable you to network with a newly found national group of other professionals who will present to you many new opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Here are some of the ways to get started:

Partnerships can take many forms: Having had the experience of starting a school partnership with the Lehigh Valley Consortium of Colleges in Allentown, Pennsylvania, I would be happy to help, in my way, to get your school district started with a college/university partnership. Please call.

Lastly, superintendents have the moral and ethical responsibility to push the envelope when promoting a positive image of public education. We must become more aggressive and bold in these types of endeavors, if superintendents are to be the recognized educational leader and truly a Chief Executive Officer of a learning organization. Stop thinking and Just do it!


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