In an era when a superintendent is expected to be a visionary, what better way to gain a glimpse of the likely future than active advocacy?
As superintendent of a regional vocational school district in New England, I have found that the activity, if not art, of advocacy brings multiple rewards. Educational leaders who venture out in the community increase public awareness of what is happening in their classrooms while gaining timely insight into what the community expects from its schools. Superintendents who monitor and contribute to proposed state or federal legislation enter the pipeline of change and potential opportunity. By actively pursuing working relationships with state, local, and federal policymakers, we ensure that field-based researchers have a grass roots perspective and in turn benefit from a greater understanding of the rationale behind legislative proposals which impact our schools.
Today’s public is asked to direct limited local financial resources to fund education. It rightfully expects its educational leaders to be agile and creative in securing outside assets which complement that local investment. Clearly, applications for both formula and competitive grant proposals gain strength when aligned with the legislative discussions and rationales which established the opportunity.
In today’s challenging and ever-changing fiscal and political environment, any chance to reduce the number of surprises should be maximized. The superintendent who is an active advocate for our schools will be able to spot change on the horizon, and will therefore be better equipped to respond to both challenges and opportunities.
Michael F. Fitzpatrick