The 1980s introduced the fourth phase in the evolution of the superintendency—the superintendent as a communicator. Until then, the superintendent’s communication was authoritative and down the chain of command. But as the push for more collaborative forms of leadership grew, and as various community stakeholders demanded a greater voice in district operations, superintendents had to develop skills that would allow them to engage their various communities effectively by listening to stakeholders’ concerns and clearly communicating the district’s goals and objectives, as well as the methods by which they would be accomplished. Today’s social media—including Facebook, Twitter, web pages, and blogs—along with newspapers, radio, and television, have added yet another dimension to the superintendent’s communication challenges.

Despite the challenges and stress of the job, 96.6 percent of the superintendents surveyed indicate they are satisfied with their career choice, and 88.3 percent would do it all over again if given the choice. The percentage of female superintendents has increased to 24 percent, almost doubling the figure from 2000. African American and Latino superintendents, at 2 percent each, remain vastly underrepresented in an occupation where 94 percent of the members are white.

Overworked, underpaid, stressed out, and under attack—but highly dedicated to the mission and still loving their jobs: That’s the American superintendent.

Dan Domenech is executive director of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).

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