Last weekend, I closed the National School Superintendents Association’s (AASA) conference in San Antonio, Texas with remarks on the state of the school superintendency and the need to prepare and sustain the next generation of school district leaders, including individuals reflecting the growing diversity of our school enrollment. We hear or read much about the shortage of teachers and other staff, but school leadership is also facing a critical shortage of candidates — and a dwindling number of people interested in pursuing an equally rewarding and complex profession. Fewer people interested in teaching means fewer teachers seeking principal positions and fewer principals seeking superintendent positions. Since the start of the pandemic, about half of the superintendents from the country’s 500 largest school districts have left their positions, according to research by the ILO Group. Moreover, two-thirds of the women superintendents that left have been replaced by men, widening the gender gap. A 2020 study by AASA found that only 24 percent of superintendents were women, and only eight percent were people of color.

This stands in stark contrast to the enrollment found in our nation’s schools, where more than 51 percent of students are girls, and 50 percent of students are children of color, according to the U.S. Census. Why is this important? Research shows that students of color have better academic outcomes when their districts are led by those who look like them. Moreover, the 2020 study by AASA also found that more than a third of superintendents said they would retire in the next five years — something that has already come to fruition in many cases. Locally, nine of the 22 superintendents in the Questar III BOCES region of Rensselaer, Columbia and Greene counties have left their positions since the start of the pandemic — a number that will grow to 11 by the end of June. Further, only four have remained in the same job since 2015 – and one of these will soon retire. Some of our districts have had several superintendents or interims during this time. As president-elect of AASA, I announced a platform last weekend entitled “Leading in a New Era: New Challenges, New Approaches.” I will use my national profile to prepare and support new and aspiring school district leaders across the country (in addition to supporting our nation’s 13,000 school superintendents). As District Superintendent/CEO of Questar III BOCES, I also coordinate superintendent searches and work closely with local school boards – and support new superintendents with their entry and professional growth.

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