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It’s very rare that employees are able to influence the selection of their boss. That’s why it’s very tempting for superintendents to get involved in school board elections. Many individuals might see the rationale for a strong superintendent seeking to elect a candidate aligned to his or her agenda or to try to thwart a candidate openly opposed to their leadership. I would like to make the case why getting involved in a school board election is a poor idea on many levels.

First, there is the practical issue of what happens if the candidate the superintendent is endorsing ends up losing. Immediately, there is a board member who not only may have professional issues with the superintendent but now may take the election opposition personally. This creates fractures and rifts on the board as soon as an election is concluded. The relationship building that needs to occur with new board members becomes challenged and existing board members are put into the difficult position of showing support for the superintendent while also trying to welcome their newly elected colleagues. A school district needs a functioning governance team and the insertion of a superintendent’s endorsement in board elections may cause resentment among current board members as well as newly elected ones.

The more important reason for a superintendent to be cautious about getting directly involved in board elections is one based on the foundation of the board/community proposition. The community elects board members to represent their desires, goals and objectives for educating children. Boards hire, evaluate and ultimately may have to fire a superintendent. This basic premise creates a foundation of trust and accountability on all stakeholders. It is incumbent on a superintendent to work with whoever a community elects to the board and direct attempts to hamper the community’s desires may have negative implications on the entire district moving forward.

So, should a superintendent remain totally out of the political machinations of a board election? Not necessarily. As a superintendent engages with multiple stakeholders it is not uncommon to find individuals who may make outstanding board members. Initiating those conversations and encouraging a quality individual to consider board service is good common sense. Likewise, if a potential candidate comes to the superintendent and asks for an honest assessment of how they may be a good fit for board service, this is not inappropriate or problematic.

Is there ever a time for a superintendent to get directly involved in board elections? I will admit, with national groups getting directly involved in local board elections nominating candidates who are running on an anti-public school agenda, I have had to rethink my original position. Short of that type of candidate, it really behooves a superintendent to continue to make their district outstanding for every student, and believe that if their pathway is supported by the community, board members will be elected to assist the school system continue to move forward.