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As school districts have made improvements to teaching and learning, and raised student achievement in the process, reform-minded superintendents have usually led the way. When they move on, they leave a legacy of programs and policies that have worked. That’s just where finding the next superintendent can get tricky.

Search in spring and summer. John Leuenberger, board president for Lena-Winslow School District 202 (Ill.), advises districts to synchronize their superintendent search with the national job market for school executives, which peaks each spring and summer. Lena-Winslow’s first attempt at recruiting a superintendent, in the fall of 2010, garnered only 15 candidates. The same search process in July 2011 attracted more than 30 applicants.

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.

Superintendent Myrrha Satow, center, meets with EdVantages management staff in Columbus, Ohio, in their weekly team meeting to discuss academic progress of special ed students. From left to right: Wendy Samir, special ed director, Satow, Amber Cummings, school psychologist.

For an hour and 15 minutes every day, 2,000 students at EdVantages charter schools in Ohio and 1.000 students in Performance Academies charter schools in Ohio and Florida expend physical energy. More specifically, they rotate playing tennis, playing soccer and practicing martial arts a week at a time. For the rest of the six hours and 45 minutes in their school day, they study math, reading, social studies and science.

On Feb. 23, Steven Anderson, instructional technologist for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County (N.C.) Schools, celebrated his three-year anniversary—on Twitter. Anderson began exploring Twitter in 2009 as a way of finding people with similar interests, opposing views, and resources on integrating technology in the classroom to share with teachers and staff in his district of 57,000 students.

On June 8, News Corp., a media company owned by Rupert Murdoch, snatched two leading school district administrators to head its new education division. Peter Gorman, former superintendent of the Charlotte- Mecklenburg (N.C.) Schools, is the unit's new senior vice president, and Kristen Kane, the former chief operating officer of the New York City Department of Education, is its COO. Late last year, Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, made the decision as well to join News Corp. as senior advisor to Murdoch.

As a 20-something, Anthony "Tony" Smith had fulfilled one dream: playing professional football for the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers. Next up, he thought, was law school. But a former mentor who had worked with him and other student-athletes at his alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley, intervened. "She said, 'I don't know why you don't this see, Tony. You're a teacher,'" recalls Smith, who used to help his Cal teammates with schoolwork.

An estimated 8,000 people made the trip to Capitol Hill on July 29-31 for the Save Our Schools March. The rally, which was reportedly supposed to draw about 1 million supporters, was held to elevate issues such as putting an end to high stakes testing, provide equitable funding for all public schools, increase family and community leadership in forming public education policies, and increase local control of curriculum.

The Deerfield Township School in New Jersey has been working on improving literacy across all grade levels of this PreK-8 school. To encourage curiosity in reading among students, Superintendent Edythe Austermuhl personally mingles with students in their classrooms and libraries to hold informal book talks and find new readings. The school librarians have noted that if they label a book as a "Recommendation by Dr. Austermuhl," the book often has a waiting list.

William Mayes is in his seventh year as the executive director of the Michigan Association of School Administrators and the president of the Association of State Executives (ASE ). He is a former superintendent of North Huron Schools, a consolidated district of two communities—Kinde and Port Austin—and of the Huron Intermediate School District, a service agency. We spoke with him after a July ASE meeting in Mystic, Conn.