Changing of the Guard

My district is currently in the search for a new superintendant. Our beloved superintendant is retiring this summer. (Thank you, Dr. Balentine, for your years of service! Your leadership has been incredibly inspiring especially through these very trying last few years.)

I’ve thought of some ways we can select a new one. We could hold an American Idol type competition and have all of the possible “contestants” do some sort of performance. Maybe sing a song about teaching math facts or act out a scene from a Dr. Suess book. All of the teachers in my district could watch and call in our vote. I heard that when they select a new pope, the Vatican watches to see  who the smoke goes to. We could put all of our contestants on a playground and see who all of the students run to. Or maybe we could just have them all campaign like they are running for president. They could visit all of our schools and make promises of everything they plan to accomplish once they win the office. “I promise that when I am superintendant, all students will turn in their homework every night and every student will excel in all subjects!”

No matter how they are selected, this has got me thinking about what I would like in an educational leader. I’m very fortunate to be in a district where they have scheduled forums for teachers to come and speak their minds about what factors we consider important in a new superintendant. I put some thought into my checklist.

First of all, I want a leader who values teachers. Someone who listens to teachers input. Someone who goes out of their way to make sure teachers have the tools and resources they need to do our job. Someone who trusts teachers and sincerely listens to our problems and our side of the story. Someone who backs us up and does not throw us under the bus. Someone who knows how valuable our time is and does not try to fill it up with meaningless workshops and district agendas.

Secondly, I want someone who has been a teacher and knows what its like. Someone with great business sense would be nice but I would much rather have someone who knows what a word wall is and how to unjam a copy machine. Someone who has spent hours looking at student data. I think it would be easier to listen to someone who has done what I have done and who has walked in my shoes. We’ve seen in the news what happens to school districts that were not run by profesional educators.

Another thing I want is to have someone who is a people person. Someone who is good at relating to others and who knows how important it is to build relationships. My district has been devastated these past few years with forced transfers and lay offs. There have been great collaborators who have been split apart and families who have lost much respected teachers who they wanted for the siblings in their family. A good superintendant should know how important community and relationships are to a school.

I could come up with more criteria such as someone who loves kids or someone who is willing to pay teachers more money but things like that should be implied or belong on a wish list. What do you think is important in an effective educational leader?


Donnie Dicus

Donnie Dicus

Tucson, Arizona

My name is Donnie Dicus and I have been teaching in Arizona for 12 years. I came to Arizona from Southern Illinois to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson. I graduated in 2003 and began teaching second grade. I taught second grade in Tucson for 8 years before moving to Phoenix. I now teach third grade. I achieved National Board Certification in 2012 and I received my Master’s Degree from Grand Canyon University in 2015. I achieved a National Board Certificate in Middle Childhood Generalist in 2012. I’ve been teaching mainstream and SEI 3rd grade classrooms in the Cartwright School District in Phoenix since 2013. I taught 2nd grade and was a math interventionist in Tucson in the Amphitheater School District. I’ve been a technology coach and have helped teachers apply technology to improve instruction. I facilitate coaching cohorts for teachers going through the National Board process and organize peer groups at my site to pair new teachers with experienced teachers. In 2010 I was nominated as a Rodel Semi-Finalist for Exemplary teaching in 2010 and featured as a Teacher Leader in February 2016 by the Arizona K12 Center.
I have class pictures of every single student I have taught behind my desk on my wall. After 12 years, that is approximately 350 students. My students know that this is my Wall of Accomplishments. I am so proud of the difference I made in their lives. I became a teacher to make a difference and I strive to do so every day.

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