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Superintendent creates academy for other school leaders

Keith Lutz, superintendent of Millard Public Schools in Omaha, developed the Midlands Superintendent Academy for new administrators

A Nebraska superintendent has added his own program to the increasing number of academies designed to teach his peers critical management skills that they may not have learned during their formal education.

Keith Lutz, superintendent of Millard Public Schools in Omaha, Neb., worked with two professors from the University of Nebraska to develop the Midlands Superintendent Academy for new administrators. Classes, which began this fall at the university, focus on topics such as strategic planning, structuring district administrations, and marketing.

“The whole genesis of the thing was to offer training to superintendents, because most graduate programs do not prepare specifically to the superintendency,” Lutz says. “Coming into the position, you’re thrown into the deep end of the pool and expected to figure it out.”

The Midlands Superintendent Academy’s 10, eight-hour-long seminars are open to 15 people, and cost $2,000. Lutz says he hopes to get philanthropic support in the future, so the program can be offered for free through a competitive application process.

These academies—which supplement superintendents’ academic degrees with job-specific skills such as budgeting, public speaking, and management—are operated by nonprofits, for-profits, universities, and professional associations.

Traditional degree programs for superintendents vary widely, and sometimes people earn doctorates in another area before deciding to pursue a career as a superintendent, says Becca Bracy Knight, executive director of the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems. The center’s long-running superintendents academy covers topics such as data management and school board relations.

Many superintendents study education, which prepares them to be teachers, but not managers of large organizations. Once on the job, it can be difficult to justify intensive professional development for central office positions that vary widely and are further removed from students, Knight adds.

“More and more people are aware of the huge need at the system level for preparation for leadership,” Knight says. “Being a superintendent or school leader is such an incredibly important and difficult job, and there hasn’t been a lot of formal preparation for that role.”