Part 1 of this series on what superintendents do daily looked at early 20th century superintendents and what they typically did. Fast forward to October 24, 1975 and look at what my schedule and activities were on a particular day when I served in Arlington (VA) between 1974-1981. All names are actual people I worked with. This section is taken from “The Managerial Imperative and The Practice of Leadership in Schools” (1988), pp. 163-166.
Scheduled Appointments 7:30AM-10 AM
Henry Gardner, director of personnel(15 minutes): discussed proposed Corrective Action procedure for use with all employees; reviewed workshop for administrators on the new process of evaluating them.
Todd Endo, executive assistant (35minutes): in an effort to begin coordinating all locally and federally funded multicultural programs, Endo had taken the initiative to determine where the problems were and which people were needed. His judgments on bilingual programs and negotiations with the federal Office of Civil Rights’ position were weekly matters that we discussed. He developed proposals to plug the holes we encountered in dealing with underserved populations in the district. We discussed a broad range of issues and how we should move ahead to bring order to unconnected programs.
Ed Oliver, director of employee relations and collective bargain-ing, (15 minutes): Oliver reported the grievances that had been filed that week, his estimate of the legitimacy of the complaint, and recommendations on what to do if they went unresolved, that is, should we go to arbitration. On those issues that were clear losers for the school board, I had to decide whether or not the principle embedded within the grievance was worth going to arbitration given the board’s and superintendent’s goals.
Joe Ringers, assistant superintendent for business and facilities(25 minutes): Ringers briefed me on the renovation plans for Washington-Lee high school; the last meeting of the school’s citizen-staff advisory commission to the board on their views of the renovation; some glitches in busing special education students; and more complaints from the district office staff on parking.
Hal Wilson, associated superintendent for instruction (25 minutes): discussed where we should go with the Teacher Innovation Fund next year; two problems with teachers at Washington-Lee that he wanted me to be aware of; told me of his plans to keep an orchestra in the high schools by trying to have the offering at the centrally located new Career Center. We went over his recommendations for budget cuts mandated by the county board because of shortfalls in state and federal revenues announced last week. We both knew that the county board would not pick up the lost revenues and that we would have to make mid-year program and staffing reductions. I wanted to be ready when the board asked for recommendations. I deleted two items that he had on the list and suggested one that he balked at. We compromised on another.
Tom Weber, principal of Stratford Junior High (25 minutes): was still having trouble doing his Annual School Plan (one of the criteria I would use in evaluating his performance) and wanted to see if he was on the right track. We went over the guidelines and compared them to what he had been doing with a few members of his faculty. We discussed at length the importance of his broadening teacher involvement in the ASP. I asked him to tell me what he would like to see Stratford become and discussed how he might take a piece of his vision for the school and make an ASP goal out of it.
Allan Norris, director of Planning,Management, and Budget (15 minutes): brought the most recent simulations for closing Madison, Taylor, and Woodmont elementary schools. We reviewed the data to make sure what the board wanted and the criteria that they had approved were included in the printouts. I made some minor points and told him to get it ready for next week’s public work session with the board.
School visit to Tuckahoe Elementary (three hours)
Visited seven classrooms that I had missed on my last visit in the spring.Talked with John Willis, the principal, before and after about how things were going and issues of importance to him.
Unscheduled Appointments 3PM-5PM
My office had three doors. One door connected from inside the office to my associate superintendent for instruction, Hal Wilson, and one to the clerk of the school board. The third door was to the outside area where Bettye Dudley, my secretary, had her desk and where visitors checked in. Since that door was left open (except for confidential meetings) staff members, including principals and teachers, knew that they could see me if the door was open. On this particular day, I spent about an hour with eight drop-ins on a variety of topics: construction problems at Washington-Lee, which Hal Wilson and Joe Ringers brought in, Judy Gillies, public information officer, sensed that the questions a Washington Post reporter was asking about an incident at a school might be more serious than the principal had told us and that I might wish to tell the board; and Adele Pennifull, clerk to the school board, reviewed items for next week’s agenda.
Phone Calls and Desk Work
On this day I spent over an hour and a half on the following: Drafting a speech I would give to teachers who had been awarded Innovation grants. Drafting a Dear Colleague letter on my views about staff development for teachers and principals.
Spoke with board members Ann Broder and Diane Henderson, who had called about a variety of complaints they had received from parents and teachers; discussed what the district was planning to do about the surge in Vietnamese students arriving in Arlington; and discussed the memorials ervice that we were to attend that evening for Floyd Gravitt.Took two phone calls from parents about their special education children and the long time that they were spending on the buses in the morninga. Afternoons were alright. I listened and took notes for Joe Ringers to respond. Put a reminder in my tickler file under Ringers’ name to check later.
Wrote short notes to seven teachers I had visited at Tuckahoe.
Reviewed letters to two principals about their ASPs. Ralph Stone, a principal on assignment to me (funded by state monies that Endo had discovered), reviewed and assessed ASPs that I had already read. We discussed each and talked through the main points to be included in the letter that he would draft. Took a phone call from a former Glenville student who lived in Washington, D.C., and wanted to get together.
Read draft of Newscheck, important information Gillies had prepared for all employees about the district that was enclosed with paychecks. Signed letters I had dictated to Dudley yesterday and documents (retirement papers for teachers, award certificates, special payroll vouchers for employees that had missed their checks, and so forth).
After going home at 5:30 for dinner, I left at about 7:30 to attend a memorial service for Floyd Gravitt, our director of human relations, who had been found murdered in his Washington, D.C. apartment the previous week. Hank Gardner and I had gone to his funeral a few days earlier in a small town in Southside Virginia. The service brought together hundreds of friends and admirers, adults and students of the popular Gravitt who had been the first black to serve in a top position in the district office and had worked hard to bridge the large differences that still existed in a school system that had formally desegregated its last all-black elementary school in1971. I arrived home at 10:00 P.M.
For readers that wish to examine schedules of superintendents in the past few years and compare early 20th century superintendents with early 21st century ones, see the following:
*Article describing Superintendent Kimberle Ward of Naples (NY) early days on the job in 2009;
*Newspaper account in 2010 of Jon Felske, Superintendent of Wyoming and Godwin Heights districts (MI);
*There is also a YouTube video of Superintendent Edgar Hatrick of Loudon County (VA) in 2011.