In November 1992, a constitutional amendment was adopted requiring all Georgia superintendents to be appointed by the local board. The terms of all elected superintendents expired December 31, 1996. Their successors were appointed by January 1, 1997.
As the chief administrative officer of the school system, the superintendent's duties are extensive. The superintendent normally functions as the ex-officio secretary and treasurer of the board. The superintendent is legally bound to comply with and carry out all rules, regulations and instructions of the school board. This includes the implementation of school board policies. It is the superintendent's duty to make employment and assignment recommendations for all school personnel to the school board. As treasurer, the superintendent is responsible for the receipt and disbursement of school funds.
The local school superintendent is the legally designated contact with the State Superintendent of Schools. He/She is responsible for reporting to the Georgia Department of Education on the use of the state's money and compliance with the state laws and regulations.
It is the duty of the superintendent to be present at the meetings of the local board, to maintain the minutes of its meetings and to complete any other clerical work as directed by the board of education. The minutes of all board proceedings shall be signed by the chair and countersigned by the secretary and the regular minutes shall be open to the inspection of the public. Minutes of executive sessions shall also be recorded but shall not be open to the public.
In general, the superintendent should be prepared to present all issues for consideration to the board in an informed way, and should have compiled information, documents, and all other information necessary for the board to make an informed decision.
Under certain specific circumstances, it is reasonable to assume that the superintendent can be excluded from a meeting of the Board when it is making its periodic evaluation of the superintendent pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 20-2-210, and when discussing whether to bring charges against or considering the dismissal or suspension of the superintendent. For subscribers to GSBA eBOARD and the eLAW module, more information is available on what Georgia law says about school board ethics. Go to your local eBOARD site. If your district subscribes to eLAW, it will be under the Legislative tab.
Selection of the Appointed Superintendent
For school boards, one of the most important decisions is who will be selected as superintendent. Before a vacancy is announced, a school board should determine the characteristics and qualifications of the individual it wants and needs as its superintendent. The board should analyze the system's weaknesses, formulate goals for improvement and determine what skills are necessary to accomplish these tasks. If the board decides to involve staff or community members in any phase of the selection process, it first should adopt clear guidelines that this involvement is only advisory and that the board retains final responsibility.
To build the pool of candidates, vacancy announcements can be placed in professional journals and with educational organizations and colleges of education. Many school boards have found it efficient and persuasive to develop a recruitment brochure that explains the job and the school system to anyone who inquires about the vacancy.
Another key decision for the school board is who will screen the applicants. Some school boards turn to consultants to guide them through the entire process of filling the vacancy, including the screening of applicants. Other school boards choose to use a screening committee generally drawn from school board members, staff or community members or any combination of these. The committee forwards the list of most qualified candidates to the school board that selects the candidates it wants to interview.
During the interview, the school board should have a predetermined set of questions; yet allow time for spontaneous questions. The questions should include both what the board wants from the candidate and what the candidate wants to tell the board.
The GSBA superintendent search service is designed to assist local boards in recruiting, screening, interviewing and employing the most qualified individuals to lead their school system. The service is designed to offer maximum flexibility to the local board and to assure the board of total control in the decision-making process.
Once the decision is made, it is time to call the attorney and draw the contract. A superintendent's contract sets out much more than the compensation and term of the job. It should list the superintendent's responsibilities, annual leave and other benefits, and reasons and procedures for renewal and termination.
The Open Records Law deals specifically with release of information relative to superintendent records. Boards of education should be aware that at least 14 calendar days before the meeting where the final action or vote is to be taken, the board must release all documents with respect to as many as three individuals under consideration for the position of superintendent and from whom the board intends to make its final choice.
Separation of the Superintendent
The terms and conditions of employment of a school superintendent by a local school system shall be determined exclusively by the contract between the superintendent and the board of education. This contract may include but is not limited to procedures under which the employment agreement may be terminated.
Successful school boards have one key thing in common. They have reached an understanding with their superintendents about how they will work together. The board-superintendent working relationship is nothing more than human relations in the public eye. Board members and superintendents run into many of the same person-to-person problems other people encounter every day in their relationships with friends and co-workers. However, board members and superintendents seldom have the luxury of privacy to resolve such problems.
Both the board and the superintendent must agree on their expectations of one another. The board and superintendent form a team to lead the school system. Although they will not always agree with one another, the members of the team must know the standards for behavior and must agree on how they will relate to the other members of the team.
The board should expect the superintendent to:
- Operate in a fair, open and ethical manner at all times.
- Work with board members on an equal basis and not show undue preference to individual members of the board.
- Strictly enforce the policies set forth by the board and operate within established procedures.
- Keep the board fully informed on all matters of its concern.
- Interpret the needs of the school system to the public accurately.
- Work toward the improvement of the instructional program and staff relations.
- Avoid unexpected issues, topics, and actions at board meetings.
- Operate the system in a fiscally sound manner.
- Support board decisions at all times.
- Ask to be relieved of his/her duties if unable to perform job responsibilities.
- Evaluate the staff and programs on a regular basis and in a fair and objective manner.
- Prepare an agenda in an efficient and systematic manner to keep board meetings to a reasonable length.
- Keep the board advised of changes, innovations, and trends in education that might be applicable to the system.
- Investigate fully all issues coming before the board, obtain all necessary information and present it to the board.
- Function as the chief executive officer of the school system.
A superintendent should expect the board to:
- Act in an ethical and responsible manner at all times.
- Furnish objective counsel and advice.
- Leave the administration of the system to the superintendent.
- Support the superintendent.
- Evaluate the work of the superintendent fairly and impartially on a regular basis.
- Encourage the superintendent to participate in educational meetings, seminars, and conferences on a state and national level as time and funds permit.
- Have an established set of policies and procedures to guide the superintendent.
- Keep current with educational trends and participate in in-service activities designed for board members.
- Follow agendas or expected procedures in board meetings so that the superintendent can be adequately prepared to respond to all questions, issues, and topics.
- Consider the superintendent a professional educator and accept his/her counsel and advice on educational matters.
- Conduct a school board self-assessment annually.
Evaluation of the Superintendent
State law requires all personnel, including superintendents, to be evaluated annually by an appropriately trained evaluator. The superintendent must be evaluated by the board of education. The superintendent's performance should be evaluated in light of job responsibilities as identified in the job description and progress toward any goals that the school board established as the superintendent's responsibility. The superintendent and all board members should be actively involved in the evaluation process. Such a process may reasonably include:
- the development and implementation of a policy or procedure on superintendent evaluation
- the development and review of the superintendent's job description
- the application of an agreed upon evaluation instrument based on the components of the job description
- the procedures for applying the evaluation instrument by the board
- a formal board-superintendent review of the results of the evaluation process, and
- the development of goals which will guide the superintendent in professional development and remediate identified deficiencies, if any
There is no one instrument that boards must use to evaluate the superintendent. They can create their own or they may use one developed by another group such as GSBA. GSBA has sample instruments and processes available for boards to consider.
Another consideration for boards is that Georgia law requires that board members be trained to evaluate the superintendent. GSBA offers this training annually at the New Board Member Orientation and also arranges special training opportunities throughout the year.
The process for the evaluation of the superintendent and the records relating thereto are exempt from the Open Meetings and Open Records Laws. Some school board/superintendent teams opt to share summaries or the entire results of the evaluation with the community and the media through the Internet or other means. Note that both the superintendent and the board must agree upon such disclosures.