Mike Klentschy

Systemic Reform and the Superintendent
Michael Klentschy
Superintendent of Schools
El Centro School District
El Centro, CA

As the myriad of local, state and federal mandates covering everything from curriculum and instruction to which cleaning solvents to use to clean school bathrooms zip across the desk of the superintendent, one must wonder what is the superintendent's role in the systemic reform process for mathematics or science. The superintendent actually plays many roles in the systemic reform process that have a single point of convergence. This focal point of convergence is centered on our students. The superintendent must play the role of either shaping the vision for reform and attaining acceptance from the key stakeholder groups, i.e. governing boards, administrators, teachers, parents and the community or establishing a vision collaboratively with these key stakeholder groups.

The superintendent must be able to articulate what outcomes are expected for students as a result of this reform and how that will be of benefit. The superintendent must also be able to articulate how teaching will be different as a result of this reform. This often is described as a 'where are we now and where do we expect to be in five years' look into the future.

There are always a variety of competing reforms and/or competing priorities for resources - time, material and human - in every school district. An important role for the superintendent is to limit the number of competing priorities to a number that is realistic and attainable. Change is a process that moves very slowly. The type of change that is necessary in most mathematics or science reforms require a strong commitment from the superintendent to a process of sustained professional development for the teaching staff. This approach to sustained professional development must focus on moving the professional staff along three distinct planes - deepening their understanding of content, pedagogy and student learning. These all require time, support for teachers and resources to develop. Best practices and research driven models need time to develop. These critical elements of sustained professional development and support must be clearly articulated by the superintendent as integral parts of the "game plan" for the systemic reform effort to become successful.

Just as teachers need a sustained professional development program, so do principals. Principals must be involved in deepening their professional skills with regard to content, pedagogy, student learning and the supervision of instruction in their school's classrooms. Principals become a more informed local spokesperson to their school community as a result of this process. Specific workshops must also be designed for these needs. The superintendent must play an active role in leading by example at these workshops.

The superintendent must also be the spokesperson to the governing board and to the community regarding the progress of the reform effort through presentations, updates, and media releases. This is critical to the success and future sustainability of the reform effort.

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