District Administration September 2017 - 38

HumanResources
Managing leadership change
Building trust and respect leads to smooth transitions
By Carol Patton

O

ver a span of two years, Warren Township Schools in Warren, New Jersey, first hired a
new superintendent and then replaced
the principal at Warren Middle School.
Both came from other districts. While
Matt Mingle is the K8 district's third
superintendent in roughly seven years,
George Villar succeeded a principal who
retired after 23 years on the job.
Not everyone welcomes change, especially when it involves leadership. No
one likes to be kept in the dark about
new district policies or how their role
and responsibilities might change-or
wonder whether they'll get along with
the new boss.
Managing leadership transitions isn't
a one-and-done event. It's actually an
organizational process with many moving parts, such as mentoring new leaders
and engaging new employees throughout
recruitment and onboarding. The overall
goal is to build trust, respect and support
for new leaders so the district can move
forward successfully.
Engage, report and listen
The first step for Mingle in recruiting
a middle school principal was gathering input from teachers, student focus
groups and the PTO. He asked about
the school's positive features, what skills
the job demanded, and what areas
needed improvement. That information
was compiled into a report and emailed
to middle school teachers and the district's board of education.
The interview committee, which
included two teachers, used the report to

DAmag.me/change
38 September 2017

New principals may be
mentored by a retired
principal or a principal
from a comparable
school district.
develop interview questions.
After selecting Villar, the district
introduced him to the public at a school
board meeting where Mingle read a brief
statement about how the new principal
met the job criteria. Mingle also emailed
the statement to middle school staff, and
sent a similar press release to parents and
the local paper.
"It was a way for us to frame his
introduction into the community,"
Mingle says. "We wanted to know what
the community was looking for, and
everyone saw him as having those same
characteristics."
In the following weeks, Villar also
met with middle school teachers at an
informal breakfast, parents at a PTO
meeting, and other school leaders at
planning meetings who briefed him on
critical issues.
"He knew what the challenges were
that had to be tackled right away," says
Mingle, adding that Villar met with key
community leaders over the next six
months. "This entire process gave him
more confidence."
Mingle himself also schedules regular,
90-minute meetings with key players in the community. Even if only a
handful of people attend, it's important
for him, as a new leader, to listen to
their concerns.
Mingle recalls the evening the school
board appointed him as superintendent.
Administrators, teacher representatives

and PTO presidents from each of its five
schools-as well as the mayor and police
chief-came to welcome and support
him. "There was a feeling of, 'You're
joining our community and we're all
here to work together,'" says Mingle.
Ongoing effort
Over the past five years, the MequonThiensville School District in Mequon,
Wisconsin, has experienced five administrative changes, says Sarah Zelazoski, executive director of human capital at the
district. In that time, the district hired
a new principal and assistant principal,
and filled three district-level positions.
Zelazoski and the district's superintendent regularly updated employees
by email about the selection process. To
protect sensitive candidate information,
they shared only highlights, such as who
serves on the interview committee, how
many candidates were interviewed, and
evaluation criteria, she says.
New administrators participate in an
in-house leadership-training program
that cover the processes for identifying
goals, analyzing problems and making
decisions. Zelazoski also assigns them an
external mentor for approximately one
year; this is someone outside the district
who can lend fresh insight. New principals, for instance, may be mentored by
a retired principal or a principal from a
comparable school district.
As demonstrated by these school
districts, managing change at the leadership level is a long, complex process. By
investing time upfront, you can make a
smooth transition out of what is often
perceived as a challenging, sometimes
painful, experience. DA
Carol Patton is a Las Vegas-based writer who
specializes in human resources issues.
District Administration


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration September 2017

District Administration September 2017 - Cover1
District Administration September 2017 - Cover2
District Administration September 2017 - 1
District Administration September 2017 - 2
District Administration September 2017 - 3
District Administration September 2017 - 4
District Administration September 2017 - 5
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