In the month of October, Forward Wayne County is focused on Education. We asked Andy Stover, Superintendent of the Western Wayne School Corporation, to share his thoughts on education and what being a superintendent means to him and his district.
The role of a superintendent can be defined as a person who oversees the district’s well-being through its finances, retention and/or hiring of personnel, allocation of resources, and selection of educational programming.
However, this role has become increasingly nuanced over the last few years with the advent of open enrollment throughout the state of Indiana. The duty of a superintendent now involves becoming the living embodiment of the district through continuous promotion of the district’s mission, vision, and values.
Connections to Community
Additionally, there is a great need for establishing connections with community members, local organizations, and youth to ensure complete stakeholder support while also reflecting truly meaningful dedication.
Education as of late has been perceived by many as a highly competitive organizational structure where each district must “market” itself in an effort to edge out the nearest competition. As I am an extremely competitive person, this appears to be a dream; however, not necessarily.
I have seen this create a disconnect between goals and reality, mainly in the area of student needs. Some seem to have become so engrossed with this competition that they overlook what matters the most, and that is children.
Don’t get me wrong. I am still highly competitive and work each day to ensure I am better than the last. But one thing has changed for me: my concern for the competition has subsided. If anything, I support my competition more now than ever. The reason is due to mutual goals and mutual respect. All schools are here to support and educate students to the best of our abilities.
We are all fighting the same good fight. My goal is to not look outwardly, but rather, to look inwardly. Striving to provide the best educational environment for my students, staff, and community is perhaps at the top of my list. As I embark on my second year as superintendent at Western Wayne Schools I want to provide 5 key traits all servant leaders should possess:
Child First Mentality
As I began pursuing my master’s a few years ago in hopes I would someday become a principal, a colleague of mine questioned my decision and lectured me about the time requirements, overall stressors that come with administration, and the sheer lack of student interactions. In the midst of this conversation, he provided the quote, “The higher up you are in education, the further you are from the children.”
This statement has stuck with me since, mainly because he was right. To this day, I still get the question: do you miss kids? My answer is always, “yes,” but I can now follow up with, “though I don’t get to see all of my students on a daily basis, I do have the power to make the most profound impacts through the decisions I make.” Sure, I might not have the opportunity to stand in front of 25 students in a classroom on a daily basis. But, I do get to oversee the well-being of over 700 students on a daily basis. I always ask myself, “What’s best for the child?” Far too often I see people lose sight of their “why” and what initially directed them toward life in education.
This is perhaps one of the most needed characteristics of a district leader. The ability to live by a high set of standards while being able to delineate between what is and what is not acceptable is absolutely paramount. One quote that I have always lived by and believe will help serve anyone pursuing public service is, “Do what is right, even when no one is watching.” In a world of serving youth, it is without question your number one priority is to do what is in the best interest of the children.
As a district leader, one must be able to actualize a vision by stating clear goals, providing a strategic plan, and equipping and empowering stakeholders to take action toward reaching the goals. Over the last decade, there has been a large uptick in economic development foundations in nearly every county throughout Indiana. Much to my delight, one of the biggest contributors to this growth has been local educational agencies and their partnerships with their community counterparts.
The amount of communication required for a superintendent is most certainly not for the faint of heart. I have found time and time again that even when I felt like my message or point was understood, I find myself still needing to provide additional communication. My rule of thumb is, Once you are exhausted from communicating, communicate just a little bit more. The reason I place an emphasis on communication is due to the inevitability of mistrust. When communication is not present, mistrust starts to develop due to grapevine communication. Furthermore, inefficient or inadequate communication deteriorates trust in the work environment mainly due to uncertainty.
This is perhaps one of my favorite areas of leadership. As a superintendent, I am not only responsible for the school corporation, but I am also responsible for supporting the well-being of my community. As Western Wayne Schools sits in one of the most rural locations within the county, it is very important that I do everything I can to ensure that our small community has a voice when it comes to happenings throughout the county.
Superintendent of Western Wayne Schools
Follow Andy and Western Wayne Schools on Twitter to learn more about what they do for their students and community. And keep an eye on our social media channels as we highlight our educators and educational organizations this month.