Donovan Group Insights

Support for New and First-Time Superintendents

Taking on a new role as a school superintendent? We’ve found that the first 100 days of a new superintendent’s tenure are the most critical, setting the tone for the months and years to follow.

Whether you’re filling the role of superintendent for the first time or you’re a seasoned veteran, getting your bearings in a new environment can be challenging. By following these communication-related tips, here’s how you can make the most of your transition into this new role.

Consider your key messages

Before writing any speeches or giving any presentations, take some time to reflect on the key messages and themes you want to communicate. Consider what you want the district community to know about you, your leadership style and your vision for the district under your care. Remember that what you communicate to the public at large is also a reflection of your staff, so consider their perspective as you craft your messages.

Your first communications as a new superintendent should be light, and you should try to be as open as possible and show your personal side. Consider some of the questions staff members, parents and community members in your district may have about you and your background, including key questions like:

  • What is my professional background?
  • Why did I choose to work in this district?
  • What drove me to a career in education, and what goals motivate my efforts?

Create a stump speech

Every new superintendent should craft and be able to deliver a well-planned “stump speech.” This three- to five-minute speech should be built around the key messaging points outlined above. Use your stump speech to introduce yourself to staff and community members. Don’t be afraid to take a personal approach and share your heart, goals and what makes you tick.

Update the district website

As you settle into your new role, make sure to update the district’s website with a personal statement and photo. It’s a great opportunity for staff, students and parents to learn more about you. Make sure to properly introduce yourself and use language and themes that complement your stump speech.

Address the community

Sometime during the first few weeks of your tenure in a new district, publish a letter to the community in local newspapers. Keep the content simple and follow your key message points, and be sure to include a photo.

Give a board speech

Make the most of your first meeting with the board by giving a speech that touches on your key messages and goals. You could write a new speech or modify your stump speech to set the right tone and get your relationship with the board off on the right foot.

Ultimately, having a smart communications plan in place can go a long way toward getting you off on the right foot in your new district. Even if the district has an existing plan, the arrival of a new superintendent creates an opportunity to revisit the approach to communications. By making the plan work for you, you can most effectively establish a solid foundation for your relationship with your district and its stakeholders.

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