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News & Press: Change Management

Developing Leaders. Driving Change. Improving Outcomes.

Friday, September 2, 2011   (3 Comments)
Posted by: Gary Cohen
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By Gary Cohen and Mark Wolak, founders of Board of School Superintendents (BOSS)

Being a school superintendent today is by definition difficult: managing a system of diverse schools, with diverse needs, to the satisfaction of diverse stakeholder groups. Your job is at once managerial, administrative, educational and political.

To compound the difficulty, today's school systems have become lightning rods for immense financial and political pressure as well as conflicting demands from school boards, parents and teachers. At the tip of this lightning rod - alone in the midst of this charged atmosphere - stands the school superintendent.
According to a recent AASA study, 60% of superintendents considered their position very stressful. And the number is rising. Many superintendents feel isolated. Constrained. They doubt their own effectiveness. And fear for their jobs. No wonder.

At the heart of the problem is the fact that superintendents have traditionally been trained as educators, yet have risen to the position where they are managing a wide-ranging enterprise like the CEO of a medium to large corporation. They are often overwhelmed, hemmed in by the day to day technical fixes.

To lead effectively requires that a superintendent must cause discomfort, unhappiness, conflict, loss and stress to some or many of the people within the organization and community. How do you find the support you need to handle all this noise and stress? Where do you go to receive high quality professional development and just in time learning for the CEO? What are the proven strategies for leading change?

Locally and nationally, we engage in a diverse dialogue about improving public education. We suffer the ill-informed political debates about policy and improvement. Yet, we seldom focus on the development and sustenance of strong and effective school superintendents. It has been two decades since Minnesota provided for the sustained professional development of school district superintendents through the BUSH Foundation.

At BOSS, we believe superintendents must lead the changes we want in public education. There is no other position in the school district with greater accountability and responsibility for leading change. For decades, active superintendents have relied on state associations and small regional networks to provide connections, information and support. While helpful, this is no longer sufficient and many superintendents have become more isolated and more stressed than ever before in history.

Board of School Superintendents (BOSS) is a new national organization dedicated to helping you, the active school superintendent, in the complex task of managing an educational enterprise. Across the country, superintendents identify their most critical learning needs as improving interpersonal skills, strategic thinking and systems thinking. That is what BOSS is all about. BOSS gives you support and professional development in a secure environment to meet your own individual leadership needs.

Our unique method is a focus on the study of implementation practice and evidence-based solutions. We identify and store practical, proven practices, collect studies of implementation practice, and collect insights shared by superintendents. And, we show you proven methods and techniques for leadership and management.

When selected for a BOSS cohort, you will discover a safe place to frame issues, gather insights, and learn from peers in a secure and supportive environment. A cohort is led by a trained, experienced BOSS Chair who has significant prior success as a school superintendent. Your cohort goals will emphasize contextual learning, self-appraisal, leadership practice, and case study methodology.

BOSS emphasizes a change leadership framework with a special focus on recent research shared in areas of adaptive change and immunity to change practices. We operate from a belief that given the concepts, skills and personal preparation, you as a leader can change anything for the benefit of students and student learning.

Currently, we are forming learning cohorts of active superintendents in Minnesota, Colorado, Rhode Island and Alabama with additional states joining soon. You must be nominated to become a BOSS Fellow and participate in cohort learning. For more information, contact the founders, Mark Wolak and Gary Cohen at 612-204-2044. Visit our rich website at to learn more about us. Nominations for BOSS cohort learning is underway now in Minnesota.


Faron L. Hollinger says...
Posted Monday, September 5, 2011
This article has certainly presented a comprehensive and accurate description of the challenges faced by school superintendents in today's educational environment and culture.. As indicated, it is a uniquely difficult leadership position that requires ongoing, relevant, and effective professional development. The BOSS Model certainly extends beyond the academic and theoretical to the practical aspects of the superintendency. The provision of individual encouragement and support enhanced through the delivery of individually designed professional development presents as an innovative change from the traditional networking and professional development of the past.
Gary B. Cohen says...
Posted Saturday, September 3, 2011
Jerry, with all of the many stockholders in education what have you found as a means to maintaining that focus in your Superintendency? I know you have also served as a School Board Member, how has that influenced how you see this?
Jerry Robicheau says...
Posted Saturday, September 3, 2011
The above article is a very accurate description of the challenges superintendents face in today's environment. Their biggest challenge, however, is to keep their leadership focused on student learning while navigating their organization through change. It cannot be done alone. BOSS will provide a support system for BOSS Fellows to engage in an intellectual dialogue about innovate ways to implement change. This dialogue will be held in a safe and supportive learning community. What BOSS offers to the Fellow selected is a critical need for school leaders.

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