A Road Map to National Superintendent Certification

Martin Ringstaff
Superintendent of Cleveland City Schools in Cleveland, Tenn.

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, recently announced the first cohort of administrators going through AASA’s National Superintendent Certification Program.

The program is a robust experience for superintendents focused on strengthening their skills as school system leaders. I am writing this reflection so others can understand the positive impact the program has on what we do every day. It was an eye-opening experience for me, as a professional, as others across the country shared some of the same issues I have in Tennessee.

AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech welcomed the first session and provided a program overview. Topics discussed included leadership; the board of education and the superintendency; and using technology to support leadership and learning. Vincent Matthews, superintendent of the San Jose Unified School District, served as our Master Teacher. Matthews offered great insight, allowed for in-depth collaboration and led us through four days of relevant discussions.

Each participant was challenged to complete a capstone project — an on-going district improvement project to be completed over the course of the two-year academy. The closing-session culminated with a presentation by participants highlighting the results of their respective improvement initiatives.

We were assigned mentor superintendents. These mentors were present during our first session. We heard their leadership stories and we worked on developing our own leadership story. This leadership story is not a reflection on our education and job path but a constructed narrative that explains where you came from and where you are going. Believe me, there is a difference between the two.

One of the most interesting parts of the program was hearing from seasoned professionals working in school systems around the country. These individuals included Superintendents Michael Hinojosa (Cobb County Public Schools, Georgia), John Deasy (Los Angeles Unified School District, California) and John Pedicone, (former superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District, Arizona). Deasy was accompanied by one of his school board members, Steve Zimmer. It was impressive to listen and learn from this discussion about superintendent-board relations.

All of the materials for the sessions were downloaded from iTunes to our iPads, with videos and documents linked into the downloadable document. From the many quotes and videos of influential leaders to the videos of what we may not want to emulate, it was all included in the documents provided.

We had pre-session assignments as well as post-session assignments, including reading case studies and working on our capstone projects. We evaluated case studies on different school systems and looked at decision-making processes of other superintendents, while reflecting on how we would handle similar situations.

We have three sessions remaining over the next 18 months. In the next session we will explore building relationships, improving communication, marketing our school system, developing political mapping and learning from veteran superintendents in a panel discussion. The third session includes creating an accountable and learning-focused district, leading and managing people, discovering the role of instructional technology, and reviewing data and analysis for improving student achievement. The fourth, and final session will include managing change and resources, analyzing the budget and the superintendency, managing a balanced life and presenting our capstone projects.

I am only in my third year as a superintendent, but I have never been a part of something as powerful as this program. I was excited when it was announced, but after attending the first session, I am even more motivated to see what will happen when we are back together in January. AASA, in my opinion, hit a home-run on this program. I do foresee the National Certification Program being one of the most successful programs ever in the AASA arsenal of professional development.

For more information about AASA’s National Superintendent Certification Program, visit: www.aasa.org/superintendent-certification.aspx.
Martin Ringstaff is the superintendent of Cleveland City Schools in Cleveland, Tenn. Ringstaff is one of the early participants in the AASA National Superintendent Certification Program.
Editor’s Note: This personal reflection article is a reprint and has been included as it is highly relevant to the nearly 3,000 regular readers of the AASA New Superintendents E-Journal.