Superintendents hope the federal government will make resources available to districts while also allowing for improvement programs developed within the district.

Finalists for the National Superintendent of the Year have a message for federal leaders: Give us the flexibility to make our own improvements.

School administrators aiming to transform the nation’s schools hope the federal government will make resources available to districts while also giving them the flexibility to implement their own improvement programs, said finalists in the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) National Superintendent of the Year competition.

The four finalists held a panel discussion Jan. 12 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to examine what they think school leaders and the Obama administration can do to bring about change in public schools.

“We have the ability to transform ourselves,” said Washington County, Md., Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Molina Morgan. “I think the administration should give school systems tools, support, and guidance so they can transform themselves from the inside out. [The administration] should avoid having more federal oversight.”

Walt Rulffes, superintendent of the Clark County School District in Nevada, echoed Morgan’s opinion.

“I’m not looking to Mr. Obama to change education,” he said. “But I do appreciate the administration opening up opportunities [for schools].”

Technology is something that Jefferson County, Colo., Public Schools Superintendent Cynthia Stevenson said is helping to transform her district.

“I always say that technology is anything invented after you were born,” she said. “I’m proud to be a 20th century kid, but I’m educating 21st century kids.”

Stevenson also said she hopes the federal government pursues an incentive-based system for ensuring teacher quality, as opposed to a consequential system.

“We need to change the compensation models, and change the tenure models, but I believe changes need to be based around teacher values,” she said. “Incentivize it and reward good behavior.”

Tuscaloosa City, Ala., Schools Superintendent Joyce C. Levey stressed the importance of community in transforming schools and said districts should look to families for input.

“We’re communicating with the families … and looking at what they want for an exemplary system,” she said. “We talk to the parents and tell them to come be part of the solution.”

AASA will announce the 2010 National Superintendent of the Year on Feb. 11 at the organization’s National Conference on Education in Phoenix. The program, in its 23rd year, celebrates the contributions and leadership of public school superintendents. The competition is sponsored by ARAMARK Education and ING.

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech commended the finalists and said their motivation to effect change is admirable.

“AASA is pleased to recognize these four outstanding superintendents,” Domenech said. “Their dedication to transforming schools, providing [high] quality education for all students, and working with the school community to advance student success represents the best in school system leadership today.”