Transitioning to a New Superintendent

This is the first Lethbridge Herald article I’ve written since I officially announced my retirement for the end of December 2019. The new Superintendent of Schools for Holy Spirit Catholic School Division will take over the reins on January 5, 2020. It may seem odd to many that my announcement has come so early in the year, and even more strange that the advertisement for the position closed on February 15th with interviews to be held on February 25th. However, the reasoning is quite sound given that there are two additional senior administrative staff, Deputy Superintendent Brian Macauley and Director of Learning Lorelie Lenaour, retiring at the end of June.

One of my great advantages coming into my position almost 10 years ago was the ability to choose my own people early in my tenure. As people retired or left for other opportunities, I was able to select my own team to lead the school division. I believe there are less than six individuals in the system that I didn’t have the responsibility of hiring into their current administrative positions. I’m hopeful that the new superintendent will have the same advantage, and so the sooner she/he is named the sooner those senior positions can be filled. We are also about to embark on our next three year education plan and, while I have some great ideas about where we can go as a division, it is important that the new superintendent is well involved in the process.

How often have you heard that timing is everything? Since the superintendent is the Board of Trustees’ only employee, the selection of a new superintendent is clearly one of the Board’s most important responsibilities. Nonetheless, once the Board makes their selection and outlines contract, terms and conditions, it is the Minister of Education who provides final approval for the appointment. The review process by the Ministry can take up to four weeks and so this is why I say timing is everything. The Board is hopeful that this can occur prior to the calling of an election because, once called, the public naming of the new superintendent will be significantly delayed.

Probably the most important factor in my early announcement and quick search process is to ensure an effective transition for the school division. In a perfect world, the incoming superintendent will take on the role of deputy superintendent by August 1st, and I would be able to work with the individual for five months. The deputy role in the school division is highly concentrated in human resources. This initial placement would enable the successful candidate to better understand division practices and procedures and, more importantly, get to know the people. Since all systems have a resident culture, those five months will also allow the individual to become fully immersed before taking over in 2020.

There have only been three superintendents since Holy Spirit became a regional division in 1995. It is not a common occurrence for boards to hire superintendents, but ensuring the right one is chosen is essential. I’ve had a great run during these past 10 years, but it is now time for another person to take on this exciting leadership role. Fingers crossed, the transition plan established will empower the new leader to, not only build on the division’s current strengths, but to enhance and bring new life into the system, as required.

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