The Key Roles of a School Superintendent That Make Them Effective (2023)

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a school district is the school superintendent. The superintendent is essentially the face of the district. They are most responsible for the successes of a district and most assuredly responsible when there are failures. The role of a school superintendent is broad. It can be rewarding, but the decisions they make can also be especially difficult and taxing. It takes an exceptional person with a unique skill set to be an effective school superintendent.

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Much of what a superintendent does involves working directly with others.School superintendents must be effective leaders who work well with other people and understand the value of building relationships.A superintendent must be adept at establishing working relationships with many interest groups inside the school and within the community itself to maximize their effectiveness. Building a strong rapport with the constituents in the district makes fulfilling the required roles of a school superintendent a little easier.

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Board of Education Liaison

One of the primary duties of the board of education is to hire a superintendent for the district. Once the superintendent is in place, then the board of education and the superintendent should become partners. While the superintendent is the CEO of the district, the board of education provides oversight for the superintendent. The best school districts have boards of education and superintendents who work well together.

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The superintendent is responsible for keeping the board informed of events and happenings in the district and also making recommendations about daily operations for the district. The board of education may ask for more information, but in most cases, a good board will accept the superintendent’s recommendations. The board of education is also directly responsible for evaluating the superintendent and thus, can terminate the superintendent should they believe they are not doing their job.

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The superintendent is also responsible for preparing the agenda for board meetings. The superintendent does sit in on all board meetings to make recommendations but is not allowed to vote on any of the issues. If the board votes to approve a mandate, then it is the duty of the superintendent to carry out that mandate.

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District Leader

  • Assistant Superintendents – Large districts have the luxury of hiring assistant superintendents who specialize in one or two specific areas such as transportation or curriculum. These assistant superintendents meet regularly with the superintendent and receive their direct instruction from them, but manage the daily operations of their area. Small districts typically do not have assistants, so all the responsibility would fall on the superintendent.
  • Principals/Assistant Principals – The superintendent is responsible for evaluating and making recommendations to hire/maintain/terminate principals/assistant principals. The superintendent has regular meetings with principals about specifics of the daily operations of their buildings. The superintendent must have principals/assistant principals that they trust fully to do their jobs because having an ineffective principal in a school can be disastrous.
  • Teachers/Coaches – The amount of interaction between a superintendent and the teachers/coaches in the district typically depend upon the superintendent themselves. This is a duty that primarily falls on the principal/assistant principal, but some superintendents, especially in smaller districts, like to have one on one interaction with their teachers/coaches. The superintendent will be the one who makes a recommendation to hire, maintain, or terminate to the board of education, but most superintendents take the direct recommendation from the building principal in this matter.
  • Support Personnel – The superintendent is almost always directly responsible for hiring, maintaining, terminating support personnel. This is a primary role a superintendent. A strong superintendent will surround themselves with good, trustworthy people. While the superintendent is the head of the district, the support personnel are the backbone of the district. The administrative professionals, custodians, maintenance, security, kitchen staff, etc. play such a large role in the daily operations that it is essential to have people in those positions that are there to do their job right and work well with others. This falls on the superintendent of the district.

Manages Finance

The primary role of any superintendent is to develop and maintain a healthy school budget. If you are not good with money, then you will likely fail as a school superintendent. School finance is not an exact science. It is a complicated formula that changes from year to year especially in the realm of public education. The economy almost always dictates how much money is going to be available for the school district. Some years are better than others, but a superintendent must always figure out how and where to spend their money.

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The toughest decisions a school superintendent will face are in those years of deficit. Cutting teachers and/or programs is never an easy decision. Superintendents ultimately have to make those tough decisions to keep their doors open. The truth is that it isn’t easy and making cuts of any kind will have an impact on the quality of education the district provides. If cuts must be made, the superintendent must examine all options thoroughly and ultimately make cuts in the areas where they believe the impact will be the least.

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Manages Daily Operations

  • Building Improvements/Bond Issues – Over the years the buildings in a district go through normal wear and tear. Also during this time, the overall needs of the district will change. The superintendent must evaluate the needs of the district and make recommendations as to whether to try to build new structures through a bond issue and/or make repairs on existing structures. There is a balance between the two. If the superintendent feels like passing a bond is a necessity, they must first convince the board and then convince the community to back it.
  • District Curriculum – The superintendent is responsible for ensuring that the approved curriculum meets district, state, and national standards. This process typically begins at the individual building site, but the superintendent will have the final say as to whether the district should adopt and use the curriculum.
  • District Improvement – One of the main duties of a superintendent is to be a constant evaluator. Superintendents should always be looking for methods, both large and small, to improve their district. A superintendent who does not have a vision for continuous improvement is not doing their job and does not have the best interest of the district in mind.
  • District Policies – The superintendent is responsible for writing new district policies and revising and/or reviewing old ones. This should be a yearly endeavor. New issues constantly arise, and policies should be developed detailing how these issues will be handled.
  • District Reports – States require superintendents to submit various reports concerning teacher and student data throughout the school year. This can be a particularly tedious part of the job, but it is necessary if you want to keep your doors open. Being proactive throughout the year and keeping up with this data as you move along will make completing these reports easier in the long run.
  • Student Transfers – A superintendent makes the decision whether to accept or deny a transfer to potentially incoming and outgoing students. In order for a student to receive a transfer, both superintendents must agree to the transfer. If the receiving superintendent agrees to the transfer, but the outgoing superintendent does not, then the transfer is denied.
  • Transportation – Transportation can be an enormous role for a superintendent. The superintendent is responsible for purchasing enough buses, keeping them maintained, hiring bus drivers, and creating routes that maximize efficiency. In addition, they must develop bicycle routes, walking routes, and snow routes.

Lobbies for the District

  • Builds Community Relations – A superintendent must build relationships with all members of the community. This includes parents of students, the business community, and those who live in the community without any direct ties to the school such as senior citizen groups. Creating strong ties with these groups will be invaluable when it comes time to try to pass a bond issue.
  • Works with the Media – The superintendent is the face of the district in good times and in times of crisis. Superintendents in large markets will be in the news consistently and must advocate for their district and their students. An outstanding superintendent will seek out opportunities to partner with the media.
  • Builds Relationships with Other Districts – Building relationships with other districts and their superintendents can be valuable. These relationships allow for an exchange of ideas and best practices. They also can be extremely beneficial in difficult times of crisis or tragedy.
  • Builds Relationships with Politicians – A superintendent must lobby on their districts behalf on key political issues that will positively or negatively affect the district. Education has increasingly become more political, and those who neglect this aspect aren’t maximizing their effectiveness.


What are the characteristics of an effective school superintendent? ›

A visionary, innovative leader who values transparency. An inspirational leader who is accountable and bases decision based on what is best for students. Strong financial intelligence. Successful teaching and administrative experience.

What are the top 5 qualities for superintendent? ›

5 Characteristics of a Successful School Superintendent
  • Excellent Communicator and Relationship Builder.
  • Think Critically.
  • Make Sound and Swift Decisions.
  • Leadership.
  • Ability to Solve Problems.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a superintendent? ›

In many ways, superintendents are managers who oversee the day-to-day operations of a school district, but they are also leaders who aspire to improve student achievement. Moreover, superintendents are advocates, confidants, and experts—whatever role their district and students need them to fulfill.

What are three major duties of a superintendent? ›

In general, boards are elected by the community to set priorities, establish policies and evaluate the outcomes of district operation. Superintendents identify needs and policies, develop regulations, provide leadership, and manage the day-to-day operation of the district.

What are the four key factors of effective school leadership? ›

Numerous studies on the topic of effective school leadership focus our attention on four key factors: Organizational Knowledge; Use of Data; Scheduling; and Positive Beliefs and High Expectations.

What are 5 characteristics one may need to be a superintendent for construction? ›

EMJ is hiring quality superintendents for our team!
5 qualities of a great construction superintendent
  • Knowledgeable. ...
  • Focused. ...
  • Engaged. ...
  • Tenacious. ...
  • Professional.
Oct 11, 2016

Which duty is the most important for a school superintendent? ›

Overseeing personnel matters is an essential duty of a superintendent. In the event of an emergency, a superintendent is called upon to make decisions and to serve as the face of the district.

What matters most in superintendent evaluation? ›

Among superintendents, financial management (95 %), meeting goals (91 %), and having effective working relationships (89 %) were rated as very or extremely important factors in their evaluation.

What are the benefits of superintendent? ›

Job Benefits

Public school superintendents are state employees and, as such, they typically receive excellent health care and retirement benefits. As Resilient Educator explains, some states offer additional perks such as discounted in-state college tuition.

What is the role of schools division superintendent? ›

Monitors and provides leadership in the interpretation, development, implementation, evaluation and revision of all Board policies and administrative procedures, ensuring their relevance and congruency with divisional values, legislated obligations and the mandates of the division.

What is the importance of superintendent in education? ›

The superintendent is uniquely positioned to provide direction, stimulate action and protect the learning interests of children and youth. A second reason to consider the superintendency is the opportunity to mentor and guide future leaders in the profession.

What skills does a superintendent need? ›

As the educational requirements suggest, school superintendents will need to develop high-level abilities as managers. They'll also need the ability to connect with students, versatile communication skills to interact with the community, and the leadership skills necessary to oversee an entire district.

What are the 3 important keys for an effective leader? ›

Three key qualities of an effective leader
  • Strong Character. Leaders with strong character earn the respect of their peers. ...
  • Committed, Swift Decision Making. ...
  • Available When You Need Them. ...
  • Additional Resources.

How can school management be made more effective? ›

School managements must develop a stress-free culture. An effectively organized school incorporates biweekly interactive activities that improve teaching and overall management. Administrators must strive to build a lively learning environment that enhances academic management of school policies.

What are the three main responsibilities of a superintendent before construction can begin? ›

Overall, construction superintendent responsibilities include:
  • Keeping track of project progress.
  • Ensuring compliance with safety, health, and quality standards.
  • Purchasing equipment and materials.

What is the job description of a superintendent for a building? ›

A building superintendent is responsible for a residential building's general maintenance. This includes handling routine maintenance, keeping the public areas within the building clean and overseeing the work of outside contractors for major maintenance works.

What is one of the main responsibilities of a superintendent before construction can begin? ›

Planning is one of the most important parts of being a construction superintendent and starting a new construction project. Before a project is started, a construction superintendent is typically in charge of analyzing the budgets and estimates for the project.

What are the 5 basic components of evaluation? ›

Evaluation Phases and Processes
  • Planning. ...
  • Implementation — Formative and Process Evaluation. ...
  • Completion — Summative, Outcome, and Impact Evaluation. ...
  • Dissemination and Reporting.
Jun 25, 2015

What are the six key challenges that can arise when conducting an evaluation? ›

6 Evaluation Challenges
  • Challenge 1: Poor Planning. ...
  • Challenge 2: Lack of Readiness. ...
  • Challenge 3: Ineffective Approaches. ...
  • Challenge 4: Bad Questions. ...
  • Challenge 5: Bad Data. ...
  • Challenge 6: Too Much Data.

What are the four professional evaluation standards? ›

Here is a description of four major forms of evaluation research: needs assessment, outcome evaluation, process evaluation, and cost-effectiveness evaluation.

Is the superintendent more powerful than the principal? ›

Yes, a superintendent is higher than a principal.

They are charged with the overall supervision of the entire school system, including its schools, the teachers, principals, and support staff, and ensuring that all of the school district's policies are carried out as designed.

What is a school superintendent salary? ›

How much does a School Superintendent make in the United States? The average School Superintendent salary in the United States is $172,588 as of January 26, 2023, but the range typically falls between $140,978 and $208,258.

Is being a superintendent stressful? ›

Besides needing to recall vast amounts of technical information at a minute's notice, you also have to stay one minute ahead of a rapidly changing environment. Superintendents also work very long hours, under stressful conditions.

What is the role of a schools senior management team? ›

The SLT focus on leading, school improvement priorities, monitoring teaching and learning, staff development and can include wider areas, such as safeguarding or Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND). It is the role of the SLT to set the school's direction.

What is the role of the superintendent vs school board? ›

The School Board creates policy and governs through the policy it creates. The Superintendent manages operations of the school system in accordance with School Board policies.

What is superintendent leadership? ›

The superintendent provides autonomy to principals to lead their schools, but expects alignment on district goals and use of resources for professional development.

What is the full meaning of superintendent? ›

/ˌsuː.pə.pɚ.ɪnˈten.dənt/ a person who is in charge of work done in a particular department, office, etc., or who is responsible for keeping a building or place in good condition: In the US, a school superintendent is in charge of the schools in a particular area.

How do I become a productive superintendent? ›

5 Ways Construction Superintendents Can Make Meetings More...
  1. Make sure there is a reason for meeting. ...
  2. Send out a meeting agenda ahead of time. ...
  3. Send follow-up information after the meeting. ...
  4. Engage your audience. ...
  5. Make use of the latest technology.
Dec 13, 2022

What is the most important characteristic of an effective school leader? ›

They Have a Vision and a Plan

The very best leaders are also visionaries. They have a goal that they can unite a team around and a plan to help them get there. Not just that, but they are able to clearly articulate their school vision and goals.

What are the characteristics of effective school management? ›

  • A clear and shared focus. ...
  • High standards and expectations for all students. ...
  • Effective school leadership. ...
  • High levels of collaboration and communication. ...
  • Curriculum, instruction and assessments aligned with state standards. ...
  • Frequent monitoring of learning and teaching. ...
  • Focused professional development.

What are the important characteristics of an effective school leader Why? ›

Honesty – moral uprightness: condition, or characteristic of being fair, truthful and morally upright truthfulness: candor, or sincerity. Integrity – possession of firm principles: the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards.

What are the five standards of effective school leadership? ›

The five standards are: Creating a Strategic Direction for the School; Leading Learning; Leading Teaching; Managing the School as an Organization and Working with Parents and the Wider Community.

How can you effectively do school supervision? ›

Effective supervision in schools is evidenced by good administrative procedure characterized by disciplined behaviour by teachers and students demonstrated through positive implementation of school rules and regulations directed towards the achievement of the aims and objectives of the school in particular and ...

What are the 5 components of effective schools? ›

There are five common attributes that make up an effective school.
  • Leadership. The first attribute is quality leadership. ...
  • High Expectations. The second attribute is having high expectations of students as well as teachers. ...
  • Ongoing Evaluation. ...
  • Goals and Direction. ...
  • Secure and Organized.
Jun 29, 2016

What are the 10 characteristics of an effective classroom management? ›

You will find that prioritizing these features will make your classroom more effective in every way.
  • Clear Rules and Expectations. Classroom expectations should be clear to all students. ...
  • Frequent and Successful Assessment. ...
  • High Student Engagement and Involvement. ...
  • Authentic and Purposeful Learning. ...
  • Efficient Housekeeping.
Nov 18, 2019

What are three factors that make a school effective describe each briefly? ›

Common elements of success
  • The first factor is quality leadership. ...
  • The second factor is having high expectations of students, as well as teachers. ...
  • The third characteristic of a successful school is the ongoing screening of student performance and development.

What are the key elements of school leadership? ›

Great school leaders exhibit critical thinking, awareness, teamwork, and adaptability in different work environments—and with a range of people to lead and bring transformation within an organization. However, all these traits develop with practical experience gained through several years.

What is effective school leadership? ›

What is clear is that effective school leaders focus on instruction and people. Through their day-to-day actions, they act in a professional manner and engage in regular self-reflection. They hold themselves and others accountable for student learning and create a safe, welcoming culture within their schools.

What are qualities of an effective leader? ›

As well as providing direction, inspiration, and guidance, good leaders exhibit courage, passion, confidence, commitment, and ambition. They nurture the strengths and talents of their people and build teams committed to achieving common goals.


1. Building Effective Principal Superintendent Relationships
(NationalAssociation ofElementarySchoolPrincipals)
2. Topic Series 8 - Role of the Principal
(Michael Fullan)
3. Superintendent Training - Become a Field Commander
(Dan Seydel, Creator of EIW Contractor University)
4. 5 Skills You Need To Be A Good Supervisor
(Training Express)
5. Tom Gentzel: Superintendent/School Board Working Relationships
(AASA, The School Superintendents Association)
6. What Does a Superintendent Do?
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