The job of superintendents in diverse districts is challenging. They must keep up with the constantly evolving field of education, while managing a school district filled with children of all different experiences and needs. They must use their knowledge and know-how to create a constructive learning environment for all students, and do so within budgetary constraints.
The Education Specialist (Ed.S.) in Educational Leadership, Superintendency online program at Arkansas State University (A-State) arms graduates with the leading-edge skills and knowledge required to be a dynamic and responsive leader in a diverse school district.
The following are some of the concepts that superintendents can utilize in order to provide quality learning outcomes for all students, regardless of backgrounds and other life factors.
Create a Pipeline of Involvement
One of the best ways superintendents can foster an accommodating school district from top to bottom is to cultivate a pipeline of involvement among all different members of the district, from the school board to parents.
As Christian A. Samuels writes in Education Week, some districts organize "leadership academies" so parents have an easy point of entry to learn more about the workings of the school system and potentially become more involved. These types of outreach programs are particularly important for members of the community who fall outside the primary demographic.
Create and Share Public Examples of Your District's Support for Diversity and Equity
In another article for Education week, Elizabeth Heubeck articulates a series of strategies that districts can use to demonstrate a real commitment to diversity and equity. Sharing the results of that work publicly is a great way to show that commitment.
This type of strategy also goes hand in hand with fostering a more involved community pipeline. By being transparent about results, districts can show parents the payoff of their strategies and even encourage future investment from the community.
Implement Equitable Treatment Practices
Ensuring that all students are disciplined fairly regardless of demographic is imperative for any superintendent. However, leaders should also look at passive policies and other existing rules to examine for potential bias or prejudice.
For example, singling out a hairstyle or manner of dress unique to one culture or demographic can be an example of implicit bias and defile a specific group of people. Superintendents should be careful when creating these kinds of rules to ensure that they are not infringing on traditional cultural expression or garb that might simply fall beyond their frame of reference.
Recruit, Support and Promote Diverse Educators
Bringing a diversity of voices into leadership positions in the classroom is one of the best ways to reach students of all different cultures. Cultural experiences or other factors can help these teachers better relate to a diverse student body. A shared experience or culture is almost always helpful when trying to connect with a student.
However, simply hiring diverse faculty members is not enough. School district leaders should go out of their way to ensure that professional support and growth practices are fair, inclusive and timely in order to build a staff that reflects the diversity of its students.
Foster Teacher Buy-In
In an article for the George Lucas Educational Foundation, Jorge Valenzuela argues that getting teachers to buy in to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives is one of the most important elements for such programs to succeed, and crucial to promoting similar learning outcomes for all students.
Getting buy-in from teachers can be a difficult process that requires honesty and humility among educators and a willingness to have tough conversations. Superintendents should be prepared to lay ground rules and mediate in such discussions.