By Marsha Sutton
Conferences, vacation time, personal leave and sick days all contribute to a number of days away from the office for school district superintendents.
Sick days, obviously, cannot be planned ahead, but the others can.
Using vacation days (superintendent contracts typically allow 30 days per year) is encouraged by most school boards, and superintendents take vacation days as they can grab them. They are usually scheduled during "down time" when school is not in session or in the summer months when the work load is lighter.
"The board expects the superintendent to take vacation days each year in a timely manner," reads the contract for Sharon McClain of the Del Mar Union School District. This language is common in other districts' contracts as well.
A review of the calendars of local superintendents reveals differing patterns of time off, particularly for participation at seminars and conferences.
Because there are so many conferences, and because attendance fees and travel expenses can often be quite high, most education leaders are careful about selecting which, if any, to attend.
I reviewed the superintendents' calendars for each of the four local school districts at their respective offices last November and December, going back to October of 2008 when possible. The variation in both the number of conferences attended, and which were chosen, provides insight into each leader's priorities.
Is it better for personal growth and leadership development to attend more conferences and seminars? Or should superintendents stay home and pay closer attention to local needs? I can see reasons for both points of view and found the exercise quite revealing.
The findings for each of the local superintendents are provided here.
Rancho Santa Fe School District (grades kindergarten through eighth)
Lindy Delaney attended no conferences in 2009. "I never go to conferences," Delaney told me, when we met in her office Dec. 8. Instead, she prefers to meet with area superintendents once a month for a few hours, to go over common issues and interests.
These meetings are attended by superintendents from the San Dieguito Union High School District and its five feeder elementary districts (Rancho Santa Fe, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Cardiff and Encinitas). Delaney said she finds these meetings more valuable than out-of-town conferences with other school district leaders whose primary concerns can vary significantly from local challenges.
Delaney's 2009 calendar for time away (no information was available for 2008):
January: in office
February: in office
March: in office
April: vacation – 5 days
May: vacation – 1 day
June: bereavement – 7 days
vacation – 2 days
July: vacation – 3 days
August: in office
September: in office
October: vacation – 4 days
November: vacation – 3 days
For this 11-month period of time, Delaney had 18 vacation days, seven days of bereavement leave, no conference days and no sick leave.
Solana Beach School District (grades kindergarten through sixth)
With extensive experience as deputy superintendent at the California Department of Education, as well as serving in many other capacities in education including several leadership positions at the San Diego Unified School District, Leslie Fausset is recognized throughout the state for her knowledge of urban, suburban and statewide education issues.