In school districts across America, superintendents are the face of the district—essentially CEOs accountable to the school board for a district’s successes and failures. It’s a tough job that demands a very unique set of skills.
“My job entails keeping students safe, making sure learning is rigorous and aligned to state expectations, and ensuring that we have the best and brightest educators in front of our kids,” said Erik Burmeister, MA ’97, superintendent of Menlo Park City School District.
On this episode of School’s In, Burmeister joins Stanford Graduate School of Education Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope to talk about the job of the school superintendent, the role of school board politics, elevating the teaching profession and how to avoid overparenting.
Each fall, Burmeister said he likes to remind parents about the gradual release of responsibility. “In many ways, we overparent because we think we have to. I want to remind parents that our kids are extremely resilient and capable,” he said. “But they can’t really express that unless we give them the opportunity to do so.” In elementary school, for example, kids can make their own lunches. Middle-schoolers, Burmeister said, should be learning how to advocate for themselves with the adults in their schools.
“I think we have to trust our kids more and trust them earlier,” he said. “The earlier we trust them, the better prepared they’re going to be for high school.”
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