July 12, 2022
Chiefs Describe Their Future Chiefs Experience

Editor’s Note: Applications for Future Chiefs Cohort 7 are now open. Individuals who are interested in being considered for the program can learn more and apply here by September 21. The next cohort of Future Chiefs will be announced in January 2023. 

In mid-July, Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan network of state and district education leaders, will begin accepting applications for the next cohort of its Future Chiefs leadership development program. As part of the program, participants engage in 18 months of collective learning about issues that are central to effectively leading a K-12 system. They also receive coaching and mentorship from members of Chiefs for Change.

To give aspiring superintendents a sense of what it means to be a Future Chief, the network recently held a webinar with three superintendents who have participated or are currently involved in the program. Dr. Margaret Crespo, superintendent of Laramie County School District 1 in Wyoming; Dr. Thomas Taylor, superintendent of Stafford County Public Schools in Virginia; and Iranetta Wright, superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools in Ohio shared their insights in a conversation moderated by Chief in Residence Peter Gorman.

Panelists emphasized that Future Chiefs is designed to ensure leaders have the skills to succeed in the top job from day one. “The Future Chiefs program helped me to realize that I was ready to become a superintendent,” Wright said. “The program is for those who want to become a superintendent in the short term. This is not the place where you are going to sit and wait. Urban school districts all across the country need quality leaders.”

Bold, sustained K-12 leadership is a critical component of education systems that meet all students’ needs—and the work to build the pipeline of talented and diverse leaders is especially important at this moment in time. As a January 2022 article from The Hechinger Report states, “Superintendents are leaving their posts in droves.” Roughly 25 percent of superintendents stepped down in 2021, “up from about 15 percent in a typical year,” according to the article.

“This is about leveling up and expanding your impact,” Taylor said of the Future Chiefs program. “I got world-class preparation for the role and great coaching from a lot of different angles and perspectives.”

Among the benefits that Future Chiefs receive are individualized monthly coaching from former district and state chiefs, opportunities to shadow current Chiefs for Change members, and comprehensive support for job searches and transitions.

During the hour-long webinar, Future Chiefs offered advice to those who are one or two steps away from becoming a superintendent—people who are currently chief academic officers, chief operating officers, or other senior leaders who may be ready to take the next step in their careers. “Watch board meetings,” Crespo said. “Read the newspaper. Connect with local organizations, and look at the way the community interacts with the school district. Ask yourself what you can bring—and stay connected to your values.”

All three of the panelists agreed that Future Chiefs helped them understand the role and provided forums for them to talk through potential opportunities and challenges with those who have succeeded in the job.

“It doesn’t matter where you are,” Wright said. “There is someone in the network who has been in that space and is always available to you.” 

Crespo concurred, saying, “The network that you build through the Chiefs for Change Future Chiefs program really helps you. It is such a diverse community of people.”

Of the Future Chiefs who have become chiefs, 82 percent are leaders of color and 52 percent are women. Currently, 18 alumni or members of the Future Chiefs program lead school districts or state education departments. They oversee systems that collectively impact 2.9 million students; 199,000 teachers; and nearly 5,000 schools. These chiefs are responsible for more than $34 billion in annual budgets.

Chiefs for Change will accept Cohort 7 applications from July 19 to September 21, and the next group of Future Chiefs will be announced in January 2023. People who are interested in applying for the program are encouraged to tune in for the next Future Chiefs webinar on July 18, which will outline the application process and other important information. Register here.

During the June webinar, Dr. Taylor encouraged interested candidates to not only apply but to “make the most of the experience and be as involved as you can. I have developed great friendships and professionally rewarding connections through the Future Chiefs program,” he said.