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Learning From the Best

Learning From the Best
Lessons From Award-Winning Superintendents

Edited by:

Foreword by Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, American Association of School Administrators

April 2009 | 192 pages | Corwin
'Provides a rare opportunity to get inside the heads of the best superintendents in the country. Harris' book captures essential craft knowledge that every superintendent needs to succeed in the job'

Robert S. McCord, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

'An excellent book for experienced and new superintendents. I kept coming across little nuggets and big ideas that I couldn't wait to implement immediately'

Janie L. Nusser, Superintendent

South Seneca Central School District, NY

In today's challenging educational environment, superintendents need proven strategies that will help them lead their schools and districts successfully. This topical resource offers a collection of proven best practices from award-winning superintendents.

Representing school districts with diverse populations, school sizes, and communities, 22 current and former superintendents from around the country detail in their own words the practices that have been central to their professional and districtwide success. Readers can learn from the wisdom and experience of these outstanding leaders on topics such as:

- Transformational leadership that provides direction for the district

- Community building, outreach, and effective partnerships

- Responding to changing times, changing standards, and student needs

- Developing strategies for overcoming barriers to effective reform

Learning From the Best is a valuable resource for new and experienced superintendents seeking to steer their districts through today's most pressing educational issues.

Foreword, by Daniel A. Domenech
About the Author
1. Introduction
Role of the Superintendent

Qualifications for the Superintendency

Purpose of This Book

2. Leadership That Transforms Schools
Leadership Sets Direction by Communicating and Collaborating, John Morton

Leadership Sets Direction by Staying the Course, Robert Olsen

Leadership Sets Direction by Involving the Community in Visioning, Patrick Russo

Leadership Redesigns the Organization by Identifying the Culture of the District, James L. Hager

Leadership Redesigns the Organization Through Instructional Leadership, Robert Olsen

Leadership Redefines the Organization by Reducing District Health Care Costs, Ronald D. Valenti

Leadership Develops People Through Servant Leadership, Thomas Leahy

Leadership Develops People Through the Power of Collaboration, Robert Olsen

Leadership Develops People Through Implementing Book Clubs, Krista Parent

Leadership That Develops People Is Important, Gary Johnson


Leadership Reflection

Additional Resources

3. Community Building
Building Relationships With the Board of Education, John Morton

School Board: Team of Eight Training, Chuck Holt

Everyone Is Important, Robert Olsen

Creating a Professional Learning Community, Brian Knutson

Building Community: Three Key Elements and Four Steps to Implement, Thomas Little

Communicating and Collaborating Within the District Takes Effort, Paul Kinder

Building Trust in the Community at Every Level, Brenda Dietrich

Leading by Example, John Morton

Reaching Out to the Larger Community, Robert Olsen

The Expanding Role of Community, John Morton

Maintaining Quality Media Relationships, Mark Keen

Building Community by Developing Cost-Effective Partnerships, Robert E. Nicks


Community Building Reflection

Additional Resources

4. Changing Times
The Changing Nature of Today's Superintendency, Robert Olsen

Servant Leaders Build Relationships in Changing Times, Pauline Hargrove

Changing Times Emphasize a Need for Civic Education, Brenda Dietrich

Preparing Young People for a Global Community, Michael McGill

Ten Strengths of Resilient Superintendents in Changing Times, Jerry L. Patterson and Diane E. Reed


Changing Times Reflection

Additional Resources

5. School Reform
The Achievement Gap: What Are WE Going to Do About It? Brenda Dietrich

Achievement Gap Challenges: Special Education and LEP, Robert Olsen

Closing the Achievement Gap, Chuck Holt

School Reform Strategy: Dropout Recovery, Daniel King

School Reform Strategy: Educational Summit for Evaluation, George A. Goens

School Reform Strategy: Using Research to Reform Schools, Brenda Dietrich

School Reform Strategy: Evaluate School Programs, Chuck Holt

Overcoming School Reform Barriers: Ask "What Doesn’t Make Sense?" George A. Goens

Overcoming School Reform Barriers: Organizational Inertia, Robert Olsen

Overcoming School Reform Barriers: Three Suggestions, Brenda Dietrich

Overcoming School Reform Barriers: Learn to Live With NCLB, Robert Olsen


School Reform Reflection

Additional Resources

6. More Creative Ideas That Work
Guidelines, Practices, and Words of Advice, Pauline Hargrove

Advice for New Superintendents, Brenda Dietrich

John Morton’s Top Ten List of General Advice, John Morton

Feedback Is Important, Brenda Dietrich

Doing the Right Thing…, Robert Olsen

Moving From Leading a Small District to a Large District, Daniel King

Passing a Bond, Tony J. Marchio

Collaborative Tips for a Successful Budget, Ronald D. Valenti

Books Every Superintendent Should Read

Words of Wisdom


Additional Resources

7. Superintendents Change the World of a Child
Student Learning Results in Successful Schools

People Are More Important Than Programs

We Is More Important Than Me

Changing a Student's World

References and Further Reading

"The vignettes offer readers a clear picture of the processes used in each successful initiative. These tips are invaluable tools that superintendents can apply to improve their own craft. The resources provide a plethora of ideas and ways to extend knowledge. The book is filled with wonderful strategies and stories to learn from."

Cathleen J. Chamberlain, Assistant Superintendent
Oswego City School District, NY

"Superintendents are often on an island of their own because they are the only superintendent in a district. This book offers practical ideas and strategies for some of the decisions we each have to make. A great reference for the beginner as well as the veteran superintendent."

Elizabeth J. Lolli, Superintendent
Monroe Local School District, OH

"An excellent book for experienced and new superintendents. I kept coming across little nuggets and big ideas that I couldn’t wait to implement immediately."

Janie L. Nusser, Superintendent
South Seneca Central School District, NY

"Provides a rare opportunity to get inside the heads of the best superintendents in the country. Harris' book captures essential craft knowledge that every superintendent needs to succeed in the job."

Robert S. McCord, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

“Harris does a nice job of blending the experiences shared with research and suggestions for implementation. She pulled in many great contributors and applied their wisdom to a variety of situations. I came away with some great ideas.”

Carol J. Lark, Superintendent
Douglas County School District, Minden, NV

"This volume advances our knowledge in a crucial area that has been understudied and under-reported: the actual work of superintendents. Here in superintendents' own words, we learn how they put theory into practice as they face a multitude of daily challenges."

Paul Kelleher, Professor of Educational Leadership
Trinity University

"I feel like this book is taking me right into the offices of leaders all around the country, and I love it. It's rare when you can find a book that makes you feel like you really know the people you're reading about. Honestly, I think I could call each person and they would be willing to help my district (and me) improve in so many ways. Thanks for helping me build a unique team that helps me keep the laser-focus on improving student achievement."

Crockett DuBose, Chief of Staff
Galena Park ISD, Houston, TX

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1

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ISBN: 9781412959841