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Relearning Delegation in

My New Job  


After working 20 years as a superintendent, it was time for a career change. But making such a move at this stage of life is not easy. I had survived many storms over two decades running a school system and then two educational service centers, the larger of which had more than 20,000 students and an annual budget of $19.1 million. Could I, in my late 50s, find the same success in a new environment?

I was fortunate to find a promising position with a university in the same community, becoming executive director of professional development at Ashland University in north-central Ohio. This post allowed me to build on my knowledge base and my regional contacts to put in place new programs benefiting the area’s K-12 schools and my employer. The work sparked a new sense of energy and commitment, without having to be on the clock 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Eugene Linton
Following two decades in the
superintendency, Eugene Linton (standing) manages professional development services for K-12 educators in an administrative post at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio.

The fresh start carried personal benefits. A significantly reduced stress level, combined with a healthy diet and regimented daily workout, have contributed to my weight loss of 30 pounds. I have achieved a level of fitness I had not seen in the past 20 years.

Accepting Assignments
In my role of 15 months now, I lead a team responsible for helping school districts run meaningful professional training for their staffs. But the move hasn’t been without challenges.

I now have a boss, the dean of the Founders School of Continuing Education, who works on-site. As superintendent, I reported to a nine-member board of education that supervised my activities, but its influence was more indirect. How I achieved the goals overseeing the school system was largely up to me. So responding appropriately to direct assignments and accepting delegated responsibilities were skills I had to relearn after two decades at the top of the organizational chart.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is having less control over institutional actions. When you lead a school district or any organization, you have the ability to create and share a vision. When others develop the vision, it is more difficult to buy into institutional responses.

I can honestly say I’ve experienced a learning curve. That in itself has been refreshing. I often ask myself: Am I being successful? Today, my success is tied to the effectiveness of my program and the division of the university. Program outcomes and revenue generation are measures of success that are expected by those I report to, but ultimately instructional improvement is what makes the work worthwhile.

A Bold Step
Looking back at the decision I made to transition out of public school administration, I know now it was the correct one. My professional growth and refreshed outlook on life are well worth the anxiety I had over the change.

My advice to anyone considering a second career: Do not fear change. Education by definition is a process of change. Learning needs to be lifelong, and the best way to improve is to modify prevailing behavior and to seek new challenges, even those that seem to be beyond the visible horizon.

Eugene Linton is executive director of professional development services at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. E-mail: elinton@ashland.edu

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