For those that have not worked in education, many confuse a school principal with the school superintendent. However, these two roles are very different.
Ken Heinz is a former principal and superintendent with 35 years of experience in education from Weeping Water, Nebraska, and he explains what role superintendents play in an education system.
The Career Path of a School Superintendent
Most superintendents teach for many years before they have the qualifications they need in order to become a superintendent. But as to which subject matter that individual teaches, it doesn’t usually matter, so long as that person loves their role and goes above and beyond.
For Ken Heinz of Weeping Water, he initially started teaching music. After he discovered his strong administrative skills, he continued his education and served as school principal. As a principal, he oversaw life on campus and assisted teachers, students, and managed the school’s day-to-day operations.
Most superintendents complete a Master’s and Doctoral degree in educational leadership or administration. Additionally, it is very difficult to become a superintendent without at least 10 years of combined teaching and principal experience.
When advancing into the role of superintendent, an individual must shift their focus from a single campus to an entire school system (which may or may not include overseeing multiple campuses). Additionally, they must manage a host of public relations and advocacy roles on behalf of the school(s) they oversee.
Ken Heinz on the American School System and the School Superintendent
In most cases, a superintendent manages an entire school district that often includes a variety of age-specific schools. For example, a single school district includes an elementary, middle, and high school, and in some cases, a district can include more than one of each. As such, superintendents must care for the needs of all pre-college age groups and their teachers.
A constant concern for superintendents is funding for their district. To secure funding and resources, superintendents must advocate for their district or certain schools on a municipal, county, and state level, says Weeping Water’s Ken Heinz.
They also oversee public functions related to the school district and make the final decision on resource allocation for each of the schools under their care. Naturally, they work closely with each school principal to improve the quality of education in their district.