Every superintendent in the state of Wisconsin can appreciate the idea of being up at 4:30…waiting for the news to come on at 5:00 and see what schools are closed around you.  It sounds silly, but the back and forth of “to close or not to close” is an incredibly stressful part of the job.  Getting the information out early enough, making an informed decision and the recurring dream that you close school and the weather turns to a balmy 70 and sunny (that may just be me!).  So school closing becomes an issue that we bounce off other superintendents in the area.  We connect via phone, text, tweet…whatever it takes to make an informed decision.  For about 45 minutes it feels like all the superintendents in the area are working together for the safety of kids…then the day happens and we wait for the next run of bad weather to connect again.

When I first took the Superintendent job in FC I was warned that the position (regardless of place) tends to be a bit lonely.  Though there is shared responsibility throughout many administrative positions it seems to me that the superintendency is a bit more isolated.  I am fortunate to live in an area where the superintendents are extremely nice and helpful.  They are always there for me to bounce a question off of them or ask for advice.  The problem I have with the process is that we bounce issues, but when it comes to our own personal growth as leaders we rarely connect.   We expect our staff to go to conferences and bring back the wonderful things they have learned, but when it comes to our development I think we fall short.  It is truly important to find a way to connect with other people in your area…we need to bounce ideas instead of issues.  If we lead a learning organization…then LET’S LEAD A LEARNING ORGANIZATION!!!  If the expectation for our staff is to grow and meet the needs of a new learner, then we need to grow and meet the needs of a new instructor.  I recently had the opportunity to attend the Wisconsin 92nd State Educational Convention.  The Wisconsin Association of School Boards, Wisconsin Association of District Administrators, and Wisconsin Association of Business Officials put on an outstanding convention.  The keynotes were practical and uplifting, the sessions were beyond informative, and it challenged us as leaders to change the way we look at schools.  Some of us were tweeting our experience throughout the convention.  The tweets can be found through WASB Storify Archive.  My fear is that after having thousands of school leaders in one city for the better part of a week, we will all go back to our districts and reflect on the experience but struggle to implement any change.  If the day to day operations take over the inspiration to grow then we can never move forward as a school, district, and state. I had this conversation with Brad Saron (@bradfordgs), Superintendent in Cashton…we thought it would be a good idea to connect and see where it took us.  We both came up with 1 thing to implement and a plan to connect remotely multiple times in the coming months to check on the progress of our goal.

So…Wisconsin Superintendents and any other leaders reading out there (based on page views that would be 6!)…we offer a challenge to all of you…

1.  Implement 1 thing you learned at the convention into your district…with the idea that it is not an ADD ON to your staff.  Integrate what you are doing and make sure the growth is yours and impacts the district.

2. Find a colleague…instead of discussing budget, facilities, or school closings find time to connect with one other person who will hold you accountable for your plan to implement something new.

3.  Connect with other superintendents who went through the process at the Spring Convention on April 24-26 in Green Bay to share the experience.

The concept is not new…and may not be exciting, but just over a year ago I was struggling to finish a dissertation…after connecting with a colleague and setting up a plan where we held each other accountable, we both graduated in May.  Having someone there to encourage, but also push, is an extraordinary help in moving forward.  Hopefully the opportunity to discuss and grow will benefit all leaders in our schools…
AuthorJoe Sanfelippo