The Critical Task of Hiring a New Chief

Courtney Williams's picture
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
When the Allendale (N.J.) School District approached Michael Osnato last year for assistance in finding a new superintendent, Osnato knew it could be a challenge. Although the search firm he founded and runs, Leadership Advantage, had completed 80 school executive searches in New Jersey, a governor-mandated pay cap on superintendent salaries, based on district enrollment, had shrunk candidate pools already affected by retiring baby boomers.

“The fiscal incentive to become a superintendent, in some places, is not what it was,” he says, “so you have to be ambitious, and you have to want to take a chance on leadership to become a superintendent.”

When Osnato conducted Allendale’s previous search in 2004, he received 60 applicants; in 2011, there were only 30.

Though New Jersey’s salary cap is unusual, nearly all districts have requirements, fiscal and otherwise, that make finding a new superintendent challenging at best. Promoting an existing employee, though straightforward, is not always the best option for filling the chief seat. Assistant or deputy superintendents may not have sufficient experience in the area most important to the district, says Ricardo Medina, who directs the Superintendent Leadership Academy of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents.

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