Knowing When to Stay or Leave [Superintendents]

Jun 28, 2016

by Bob Thompson

The superintendency is by its nature a transient profession. Knowing when to stay a little longer and when to leave is often difficult to decide, especially if our logic and our emotions are in conflict. The following set of questions is intended to give guidance to superintendents as they assess their tenure in a position and the pros and cons of staying or moving. Please note, however, that there are no generic “right” answers. The “rightness” of the answers varies from superintendent to superintendent.

  1. Have I accomplished what I came to do, and most of the other important things I can to do?
  2. Have I been here long enough for the improvements/changes to become ingrained in the thinking of the district so as not to come “unraveled” after I leave? (Otherwise, all of my work may have been for naught). Research indicates it takes 5-7 years for a program or strategy to become ingrained.
  3. Is my present position tenable?
    • What is the Board’s attitude toward my staying?
      • If the attitude is positive then this issue is neutral, (i.e. it is neither a reason to stay or leave).
      • If the attitude is negative, how likely is it to improve?
    • Are there aspects of the job that make it difficult or unlikely for me to be successful, i.e. a problem employee I can’t fire, a negative “happening” in the district that has poisoned the well, etc.?
  4. What are the family and personal issues to be considered?
    • Would a new position offer a sufficient increase in salary to justify moving my family?
    • Is the salary increase sufficient for me to risk upsetting my board if I don’t get the job?
    • Is this a good “window” of time to move and not adversely affect my family, my education, my children’s education, etc.?
    • How will a move at this time affect my spouse’s career?
    • What is the status of the health of my family (e.g. do we need to be close to a particular doctor or health facility)?
    • What about the health of our parents and the necessity to be within a certain distance of where they are?
    • Is my family supportive?
    • Am I happy in my present job?
    • Other?
  5. What are the professional issues to be considered?
    • How likely is it that my present job will continue to provide me with adequate opportunities for personal and/or professional growth?
    • How important is continued personal and/or professional growth to me and/or my career?
    • Do I feel challenged in my present position and for how long?
    • Will a move advance or hinder my career?
    • Are there aspects to my job that will make it difficult for me to continue to be successful e.g. loss of board and/or community support, an ineffective employee that I have no power to move (i.e. no authority to hire, fire, or reassign), meddling and/or micromanaging by the board, etc.