Every year approximately 2,600 school districts announce a new superintendent. New leadership is an excellent opportunity to bring a community together and reinforce the district’s strengths. While it’s essential to find the right candidates and select the best leader for your district, all of that hard work can pay dividends by getting your announcement and rollout right. Too often, districts introduce their communities to a new superintendent with a mere press release or a short post to their website—then it’s back to business with a new leader at the helm.
In this guide, we’ll discuss how your school district can strategically plan, support, and launch a new superintendent. You’ll learn how to bring all stakeholders together and reinforce your district's strengths, culture, and values. Done well, the strategic and thoughtful roll out of a new school leader can help with everything from community engagement to teacher recruitment to building more advocates for your schools.
This detailed guide and its downloadable templates are ideal for:
- a communications director tasked with the announcement
- an outgoing superintendent looking to support their successor
- board and search committee members
- a team made up of different roles looking for a successful roll out
Start with a plan
New leadership means change. And any change is often a bit chaotic at the start. But strategizing a solid plan to introduce a new school leader can increase excitement and trust from your community.
As you plan for announcing a new superintendent, there are three key factors to consider:
Who Identify your stakeholders and audiences
What you’ll learn:
You have different audiences with different needs, wants, and questions. Each audience is listening and will be paying attention to your district and its soon-to-be new leader. Make sure you reach each audience where they are.
Start by listing out every audience you could possibly reach with your announcement. Chances are you interact with many of these audiences each and every day but it’s a helpful exercise to start with. We recommend starting broadly (ie: parents) and then narrowing down your list from there (ie: parents in the PTO, elementary school parents).
Here are some examples that may seem obvious and yet require a specific strategy and plan to communicate with:
- Leadership and school board
- Teachers and support staff
- Classified staff
- PTO, teachers unions, & other organizations
- Parents and families
- Students and student groups
- Broader community
- Local media
Leadership & school board members
Your board will already know about the selection process for your new superintendent, but you still want to include them in the planning of your announcement— especially to get their help spreading the news. You also want the information you release (bios, the search process, etc.) and your timing to be consistent with your board’s. You don’t want anyone giving away the big surprise or misspeaking. Having a plan for those already in the know is just as important as having one for those hearing the news for the first time.
It goes without saying that involving principals and other building leaders is critical to a new superintendent's success. As we’ll cover below, it’s also critical to have both your school board and building leaders on the same page to reinforce your district’s core message and strengths.
Teachers & support staff
As we’ve learned time and time again, it’s incredibly important to see teachers and support staff as your brand advocates and ambassadors. Acknowledge the key role they play in your organization's ability to reach parents and students by involving them in your announcement and notifying them before your other stakeholders.
PTOs, teachers unions & other organizations
Crafting specific announcements for these organizations can help your new superintendent better engage with these groups in the long run. Moreover, it can be worthwhile to work with the head of each organization in the planning stage to help them find the best ways to share the news with their members. Even if they don’t know who the leader is in advance, getting their involvement will generate excitement—and that excitement will be shared with others in their organizations.
Students & student groups
When planning to announce a new district leader, it can be easy to focus so much attention on other stakeholder groups that your students get lost in the shuffle. But you can involve high school student body governments in your rollout plans. Craft specific messaging and activities to help them better understand how their schools and principals work together with district leadership. Your civics teachers will cheer you on, too!
Remember that superintendents play an important role not just in your district, but beyond the school walls. Consider your state legislators, mayor, chambers of commerce, non-profits, local after-school programs, and other community groups in your planning. You may not need to involve every group—or have a specific strategy for each—but think about who to focus on, and win over, during and after the announcement.
A critical part to your rollout is communicating with media organizations, including local TV stations, newspapers, and radio. Giving them advanced notice and engaging them early can give you an additional loudspeaker. Local media will likely cover the announcement in some way, but giving them advanced notice and specific messaging can help you control the narrative and create opportunities to partner with local media on your announcement.
What Key assets & content
What you’ll learn:
A focused message and prepared content allows you to get the word out quickly and across many channels. Strong announcements bring many elements together that tell the strengths and story of the leader and the district.
Now, it’s time to dive deep into a well-planned announcement. This can seem overwhelming at first, but once you have all the key pillars in place, the rest will take shape quickly.
Remember this is an announcement about a person—someone who has been selected among others for their leadership, abilities, history, and personality. The first pillar of your announcement should be all about your new superintendent—who they are, what they’ve accomplished, and how they hope to impact your district. Collecting and fine-tuning the following assets will give your school community an introduction that feels authentic and personal.
What you’ll need from your new superintendent:
Start with a narrative bio that is exhaustive and detailed, describing your new leader’s experience in education and family life. Even if you don’t use all of it, it’s important to have something to start with. If your new superintendent has a pre-written, go-to bio, you should read it, consider it, and then throw it out. Using the same bio they’ve always used is a missed opportunity. For your audiences, a new leader’s bio should feel fresh and connected to your district’s style, voice, and vision.
Spend more time on this new bio than you think you should. Is it easy to read? Are there strong takeaways about why your new leader was selected? Once this exhaustive bio is just right, you can “atomize” it— turn it into smaller bios, like bylines or soundbites, to share with the media or use in district wide emails.
List of accomplishments
Your new superintendent’s bio will likely include a number of their accomplishments and facts about their life and family. However, it’s still important to create a bulleted list that details their wide array of experiences, awards, publications, organization memberships, and personal accomplishments, as well as their advanced degrees and success in previous administrative roles. Has your new leader completed a triathlon or served on the board of a nonprofit? Help your community get to know and relate to them by sharing who they are on and off duty. Also be sure to double check dates listed for consistency.
Superintendent bio example:
Source: Superintendent Dr. Joris M. Ray from Memphis-Shelby County Schools
Letter from the Superintendent
Most school websites have a letter from their district’s superintendent. While your new superintendent may plan on sharing letters and updates regularly, you’ll need this initial, introductory letter as part of their kickoff. Not only will it live permanently on your website to introduce new visitors to your superintendent, but can also be shared on social media and referenced in your press packet.
Set up a photoshoot far in advance of your announcement. You’ll want to have five to six great photos of your new superintendent to share with the press, use on your website, or post other places like social media. To get a few great shots, prepare to take many photos. If you need help and don’t have a photographer on staff, we have a guide to taking high quality photographs here.
If your new superintendent has a spouse, children, or both, get some additional shots with their family. To really be on top of it, have the superintendent bring multiple changes of clothes—some formal and some casual—that you can use over the course of their first year.
You’ll also want to choose multiple locations for your photo shoot. Photographs taken in front of a school building, at an overlook above your city, or some other recognizable local landmark can help tie the superintendent to your community. (Also, it never hurts to remind your new super to get a haircut a week or two ahead of time).
Short, pre-recorded video
Shooting a short, introductory video of your new superintendent will give you even more content to share. But do this closer to your announcement date. Why? This will give your new leader more time to prepare a welcome message for your community.
It’s important to keep this video short, too. Less than two minutes is ideal. This is just one touchpoint of many, so it doesn’t need to be exhaustive or include a five year plan. This video message should capture the essence of their welcome letter without simply repeating or reading it.
Example of an introductory video:
Source: An introduction to SAUSD’s new Superintendent Jerry Almendarez
This is a small detail, but it’s likely that at some point you’ll need your new superintendent’s digital signature for a letter, official documentation, website, or some other district communication. Be sure to have this on hand as early as possible.
Close contacts and mentors
Ask your new superintendent to send you a list of close friends, community members, mentors, and others that may want to hear the news of their hiring early. This can seem like an unnecessary step, but it’s a good way to have the superintendent’s confidants support them in their new role. When you make your announcement, these contacts can further spread the word and support your message.
Email messages to key audiences
This can wait until the week leading up to your announcement, but make sure that the superintendent has written an email to your district’s key audiences. This includes teachers and support staff, parents and families, and any other organizations or groups that will be thrilled to hear from a new superintendent the day they’re announced—and with a personal message to boot. Also be sure to include an email to leadership, like principals, even if they already know who has been selected. These emails should be a personal welcome from the superintendent to each specific audience.
What you’ll need from the board and search committee:
The second pillar comes from the school board and those entrusted with finding the right hire for your district. Your school board will have the most involvement with the new superintendent prior to your announcement, so their experience searching for and getting to know the final candidate is valuable. Be sure to identify your most excited board members and involve them in creating the assets below.
Quotes and reflections
Ask the board and search committee for short quotes that can be used in press releases, on social media, or elsewhere. These quotes should be brief and authentic. Moreover, they should cover a range of topics about the superintendent, including academic background, leadership experience, personal abilities, and other notable characteristics that could help the reader get to know them better.
Email from the board and search committee
Similar to the superintendent’s letter, this letter will likely be referenced and shared out. This can include quotes you’ve already gathered as well. This email should come from the president of the board, but you can help them by providing an outline of key points to touch on.
Pre-Written social posts
Again, feel free to reuse the quotes your board has given you. And encourage board members to pre-write some content for social media, especially if they are active users. You may want to delay this until you’re closer to the announcement date, or make sure they understand the timing of the new superintendent’s rollout.
Social media post example:
Source: Los Angeles Unified School District welcomes Superintendent Alberto Carvalho
FAQs & talking points
Providing answers to Frequently Asked Questions, or Talking Points, is optional, but can be helpful to get your board and other committee members on the same page. Simply write a list of possible questions from the different audiences you outlined earlier (parents, PTO members, the media, students, etc). If you’re involving those groups closer to the launch date, you may already have real questions to include.
Why create FAQ and Talking Points documents? It’s a simple way to get everyone rowing together and to provide consistent answers. Be sure to include a talking point about how to handle questions that a board member or committee member isn’t expecting or doesn’t know the answer to. That way they can be confident no matter what is asked.
District content preparation
Now it’s time to pull all of your preparation together and get ready for the big announcement. With all the content you’ve gathered so far, you have a strong starting point.
Write a press release that draws from your new superintendent’s list of accomplishments, uses quotes from board members or other community members if they were involved in the search process, and include the superintendent's new bio. Review this many times and make sure it reflects your core message and the messaging priorities you identified earlier.
With the right content management system, sharing your announcement on a district website can be an easy step. A responsive website that you can update quickly is a powerful tool for any announcement. You want to drive traffic to your district’s website over other channels like Facebook or Twitter. Why? Because your website is your digital real estate and you have full ownership, which is more powerful than “renting” temporary space on someone’s Facebook feed.
First, you’ll want to identify which web pages need to be updated, removed from, or added to your website. For example, if you have an existing url for your superintendent letter, you probably want to update that page instead of creating an entirely new page or url. If this page’s url or “slug” is specific to your previous superintendent (ie: /superintendent-smith-letter), you’ll want to change it to a general url (shown below) or to one that matches your new superintendent’s name. It’s a small detail, but it will matter.
When you announce your new superintendent, you’ll most likely have at least three web pages to update or add to your website:
- Letter from the superintendent
- Superintendent’s Bio / About the Superintendent section with headshot photo
- Contact information
Include contact information such as the district office phone number, the superintendent’s email address, and links to their social media (if desired). Make sure the information is accurate and ADA accessible on each page. Add the photos and the video created earlier in the process to the best page.
Be sure to design a shareable graphic for social media and your website with your new superintendent’s photo, name, and title. This should be designed in your district’s colors and font and be consistent with your other brand assets. Depending on the size of your district—and your budget—you may also want to design print assets for your announcement (ie: postcards, flyers, or newsletters).
Press kit / media packet
Involving the press and media is a key part of making a strong, impactful announcement. Your job is to make it easy for the media to cover your good news—and to do so positively. Providing them with high quality assets like photos, video, and graphics will make their job easier and help you “control the narrative” of your new superintendent launch.
Create a press packet that includes all of the above and can be downloaded directly from Dropbox or Google Drive. (You can tell media outlets that you’ll have a press packet ready for them in advance, but only send it when it’s ready to be shared.)
Lastly, set aside time on the new superintendent’s schedule for interviews the day of the announcement (usually in the morning) and make those available to different outlets, newspapers, and reporters. Be sure to include student newspapers and media as well!
What you’ll need from all leadership:
At this point, you already have two big pillars of your content. What is needed next is to have those two pillars support one another. You can do this by getting the board, the new superintendent, and other leaders on the same page with messaging priorities that go beyond the announcement. This is the first time the board and the superintendent will work closely together on something of key importance so it’s critical to get it right.
Identify messaging priorities
While your announcement is about a person, making it only about your new superintendent is a missed opportunity. Use your announcement as a chance to further build a strong school district brand and give your audience a reason to keep paying attention.
You can do this by identifying and reaffirming your district’s strengths, values, and culture. Infuse your core message and identity in every part of the process and make sure that everyone involved knows what your top two or three priorities are when making your announcement.
Review the timeline together
The search committee may think their work is done, but it’s important to have everyone know the timeline and scheduling of your announcement. We’ll dive deeper into this in the final section of this guide, but make sure everyone on your leadership team knows that there is a plan and that it’s important they pay attention and follow through on their respective roles.
“Use your announcement as a chance to further build a strong school district brand and give your audience a reason to keep paying attention.”
When Timing is everything
What you’ll learn:
Successful announcements rely on preparation and precise timing. Work backward from the announcement day to get your audiences, content, and plan in order for a strong rollout.
Now it’s almost time to make your announcement! But first you need to build out a timeline that ensures all of your content and preparation reaches your audience—and has the impact you’ve been working so hard for.
Pick an “Announcement Day”
After you’ve chosen a specific date to roll out your announcement, work backward from there to set checkpoints and deadlines along the way. Depending on how soon you plan to announce, you can include all of the steps outlined throughout this guide in your timeline.
Working backward, pick a day to review the content you’ve gathered from your superintendent and school board. Then, pick a day to notify local media outlets and key audiences that the announcement is coming. You know your community best, but if you’re worried about the news leaking, you’ll want a tight rollout schedule to keep as much information as possible close to you until your announcement goes live.
As we mentioned above, be sure to block off plenty of time on the day of the announcement for interviews, meetings, and other things that will come up.
Now it’s finally time to launch your new superintendent and introduce them to your community. Starting early in the morning, send out your press release. It may take hours or even a full day for the story to be picked up, but if you provided a press kit to local media, it may help speed things up. Immediately after sending out your press release, update your school district website and your mobile app with the announcement.
(Note: Wait to post on social media until after you’ve updated your website and your announcement emails have all been sent—you want to drive people to the channels you control.)
Once your press release is out and you’ve updated your website, your board/search committee can send out their emails with links to the website. A few hours later, have your new superintendent send introductory emails to your key audiences—starting with leadership, teachers, and support staff. At this stage, be sure your superintendent’s close contacts are also helping to spread the word.
Once your emails have been sent, you can post on social media. Again, be sure to include links back to your website and whatever pages include the new superintendent’s bio, welcome video, and other content. Of course, having a strong school communication system, website, and CMS will make this process easier and more effective.
While all of this is happening, your new superintendent can be meeting with leadership, interviewing with local media, and chatting with teachers and staff members. (Note: If you plan to have an in-person announcement event, like a press conference, you may want to adjust the schedule and time things accordingly. You’ll want those in attendance to hear the news first.)
Announcement Day should be smooth and relatively easy if you’ve done all of the prep work well in advance. Now you can sit back and enjoy the experience you’ve helped create with your hard work and planning.
Announcement Day is only one day, but it can help set the tone for your new superintendent’s tenure. As a follow up, it’s important to keep meeting with the right audiences and continuously advancing the brand of the district. After your announcement, start setting up meet and greets or open house events. You’ll want to meet with district leadership, teachers and staff, the PTO and parents, and students and student organizations. Everyone will want face time with their new superintendent.
Consider creating a two week schedule after your launch date to make sure your messaging priorities stick and that the superintendent is gaining the trust of those needed to run the district well. Your new superintendent should have a good amount of buzz and momentum in their favor—use it.
“Announcement Day is only one day, but it can help set the tone for your new superintendent’s tenure. As a follow up, it’s important to keep meeting with the right audiences and continuously advancingthe brand of the district.”
Although a change in leadership can be difficult, you can use it as an opportunity to gather your community around your district’s strengths. By preparing and planning, you reinforce the district brand, offer confidence to your stakeholders, and set up the superintendent to lead with influence and impact.
After all, every experience (big announcements or small touchpoints) with your district is an opportunity to further build up your brand and community. The start of a new superintendent's tenure is the perfect chance to restate your district's strengths, values, and culture. When you instill your identity into community wide messaging such as this, you give your audience a reason to keep listening.
We've put together resources to help make your next announcement day easier. Use these customizable templates to make your announcement day a success.
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