A Good Superintendent Is Hard to Find: Turmoil at the Nation’s 3 Largest School Districts

In recent weeks the superintendencies in Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago, the largest U.S. school districts, have been vacated. Superintendents have long been in short supply and veterans of large urban districts even more so.

All superintendents are called on to manage daunting challenges ranging from increasing academic achievement to managing elected board members and union leaders and other would-be adversaries to operating a large transportation system. But the issues top leaders of the very largest school districts must confront often seem virtually insurmountable.

“It’s a lonely job and a very unique one,” says Mike Magee, CEO of Chiefs for Change, which provides training, mentorship, and advocacy for would-be state and district education heads. “Superintendents who exhibit bold and savvy leadership for more than a decade are outliers.”

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