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What Every Superintendent and

Principal Needs to Know…

School Leadership for the Real World 

Jim Rosborg, Max McGee, and Jim Burgett 

ˆ authors of The Perfect School ‰


“The Buck Stops with Us!” 

Modestly stated, this book shares more sound, straightforward, easy-to-apply school leadership ideas and practices than any other book in print. Three of Illinois’ top educational leaders offer 332 pages of no-nonsense, often funny advice about what works and what doesn’t, ranging from assessment to personal hygiene to getting those irksome referenda passed to what to say to the press, and when. It’s simply a must for every school administrator, particularly in this UPDATED SECOND EDITION!    


See how these three highly acclaimed principals/superintendents:


Write business plans, build business cases, and sell them to the Board and community.

Make the union an ally, take charge in contract negotiations, defuse no-win situations, and forge a win-win agreement that all sides embrace.

Guide visionary leaders beyond traditional boundaries, putting pre-school classes in their classrooms, educating parents, replicating other schools’ successes, and much more…

Implement 20 specific ideas for creating the proper work and learning atmosphere.

Build internal capacity by focusing on a shared purpose, mission, and goal(s); enhancing staff knowledge and skills; distributing leadership, and establishing accountability.

Inject ethics into every action while exercising the kind of civic leadership that binds the school, community, press, and politicians into one voice for educational excellence.


Who are the authors?


Jim Rosborg—Program Coordinator for External Graduate Programs and professor at McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois, Jim recently retired as Superintendent of Belleville Public School District 118 in Belleville, Illinois. Jim received his Doctorate from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. He was named Illinois Superintendent of the Year in 2004 and currently serves on the Illinois State Board Task Force.

Max McGee—Former Illinois State Superintendent of Education, Max is currently the President of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. With a Ph. D. from the University of Chicago, he was the Superintendent of Wilmette School District #39.
Jim Burgett—Jim has served in almost every educational capacity during his 38-year tenure. Named the Illinois Superintendent of the Year in 2001 and Administrator of the Year in 2002, Jim retired from the Blue Ribbon Highland Community Unit School District in 2004. Burgett is a nationally recognized educational speaker and consultant.




From three brave voices in the trenches come more easy-to-apply, straightforward school leadership ideas and practices than from any other book in print. Their goal? To explain what works, what never did, and what you can do to put your school(s) and yourself atop the excellence pile, modestly or raucously crowing.   

They talk about leadership, ethics, communications, trust, teachers, assessment—even personal hygiene, getting those irksome referenda passed, and what to say to the press and when. This book is a must for every school administrator.  


Why buy or read this book?


The authors are three guys who rose to the top in school administration because, under fire, they could provide practical, successful solutions to almost any predicament. Even more, they could innovate, cut through the jargon and nonsense, and lead. On these pages, they share what they have learned: ideas, high-impact lessons about leadership and everyday problem solving that can be immediately implemented at every school level. Their combined wisdom and stories will make administrators think, laugh, and act.




From the introduction ...


While the pages in this book read conversationally, the advice is flat-out serious, because schools and teaching kids is about as serious a task as we face in America today. Nonetheless, fun somehow crept into the prose. But don’t be deceived: Jim R., Max, and Jim B. are three decorated school dudes who care—and dare to share. They eagerly agreed to write this book because they want every one of you to succeed every time.

Why is this a second, updated edition?

For starters, we sold out three full printings, plus a fourth printing made solely for an investment firm that wanted all of the administrators in its area to have a copy on their desk! 

   Before going to press a fifth time, I asked each of the authors to update his chapters (several were virtually rewritten with new material) and to provide us with four new case studies to add to the earlier ones, so we could keep the information current and immediately applicable.

   They happily complied with this grumpy old editor’s requests, although “happily” may be a tad exaggerated. That was a double good fortune because it makes this upgraded edition even better than the first, which has also been widely adapted by instructors for their graduate school administration classes across the country.

   My request was a real imposition because all three were then writing their follow-up book for us called the The Perfect School.

   We benefited another way with the update. Each of the authors of What Every Superintendent and Principal Needs to Know were by then, by popular demand, gracing lecture halls, educational conferences, and school administrator gatherings, building on the book’s old and new contents, and sharing current, on-the-site applications.

   So what you read today (what we call in house “Supt #2”) has new windows and repainted doors on a still-fresh foundation that we think will stand strong for centuries. Good stuff, with more good stuff. 

Gordon Burgett, Publisher




School Leadership  [Jim Rosborg]

This chapter deals with 20 different ideas that the successful school administrator might use as a guide for developing the proper work and learning atmospheres under his or her tutelage. (This entire chapter, as well as the book's introduction, can be read or printed out, free.)


Civic Leadership and Ethics  
[Jim Burgett]

Ethics, says this chapter, are not a option for success: a leader without ethics will never reach his or her fullest effectiveness. Further, a successful school leader must have a positive impact on their community, which, in part, comes from knowing how to deal with the press, politicians, and other community leaders. 


Business Basics for  
School Leaders  
[Max McGee]

Writing a business plan, building a business case, forecasting, benchmarking, and the market practices of successful school and business leaders: all are described in this chapter and illustrated with examples.


[Jim Burgett]

Being able to communicate effectively as a school administrator may be the single most important requirement for success. Honesty, the willingness to find an unknown answer, being concise, and being available are essential components. Chapter Four shows not only the many ways that school administrators communicate, but also the need to plan ahead, prepare well, and be able to prove what you present to parents, taxpayers, and the press.


Building and

Sustaining Trust  
[Max McGee]

Successful business leaders are trusting and trustworthy. So this chapter contains a dozen tips on how to build trust, as well as advises the leader on how to be trusting and how to recover from a violation of trust. Keeping promises, consistency between words and action, and attention to relationships at all levels are the most important ways to develop and enhance credibility.


[Jim Burgett]

If approached in an organized way, planning is doable and straightforward. Here, two approaches are explained: the "Big Plan" is built around the needs and vision of the school, and the "Day Plan" addresses personal time management and implementation. 


Expert Knowledge  [Jim Rosborg]

Chapter Seven address discusses organizational types of activities needed to run an effective school district.  Those include the Baldrige Criteria, the ISLLC Standards for Professional Development, bond issue passage, and professional development through college instruction. 


Building Internal Capacity  
[Max McGee]

The most successful leaders are those who build capacity for continued improvement in teaching and learning. Leaders build capacity when they focus the entire school community on a common purpose, mission, and goal(s); enhance the knowledge and skills of their staff; distribute leadership; develop relationships, and establish reciprocal accountability. Explained here, in greater detail, is what building capacity means and how one accomplishes it.



[Max McGee]

Visionary leaders are men and women of action who expand traditional boundaries. Examples might be putting pre-school classes in their schools, educating parents, replicating successful programs of other schools, or working to effect change at the state level. This chapter tells more about who visionary leaders are and what they do.



and Learning  
[Jim Rosborg]

When dealing with teachers, there will be issues concering unions, collective bargaining, labor problems, and the curriculum. That said, the successful administrator provides teachers with supplies, disciplinary support, and creative ways to provide classroom monies through outside resources such as a school foundation. 


Adventures in

[Jim Rosborg]

Chapter Eleven looks at ideas to help invigorate teaching and learning. Local, state, and national "best practices" and innovative ideas are explored. After school programs are discussed; so are extending the school day and the school year.


Taking Care of YOU!  
[Jim Burgett]

Administrators cannot be effective in school unless they take personal care of their own needs, so this chapter suggests survival, success, and happiness techniques applied to the human being first and the administrator second.



and Accountability  
[Jim Rosborg]  
[Max McGee]

This chapter looks at ways the administrator can improve the school's  
assessment program by making sure the staff understands the importance of  
assessments and how to set the proper environment to maximize test results.   
Good school administrators recognize the importance of testing and  
assessment, communicate to the public and staff what the results say, hold themself and their staff accountable for student achievement, and use the information to improve teaching and learning. 


Case Studies in Real-World

[All three authors]

Eleven real-world examples that highlight points made in this book. 


What have others said about

What Every Superintendent and Principal Needs to Know...


This book is great. It should be required reading for all aspiring educational leaders.


Dr. Donald L. Kussmaul, President,

American Association of School Administrators


Doing the right thing is a big part of this book, not just in Burgett's chapter on Civic Leadership and Ethics, but in every chapter on nearly every page are reminders about leadership behavior. You can find almost any topic that presents a challenge to school leaders. From accountability to zero tolerance, from band instruments to wellness, a tip is in the book. If you want to become a better principal or dean, or perhaps see the superintendency in your future, you should read this book.


Illinois Principals Association Newsletter


The authors present common-sense suggestions that will help any principal or superintendent lead his or her school and community to make decisions that keep the focus on the improvement of achievement and the needs of all students.


Dr. Jim L. King, Executive Director,

Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals


I have used the book for the beginning course for Type 75 certification and for the doctoral/post-doctoral seminar in the Superintendency. The students' response has been very positive—for its focus on the real problems of today's building and district leaders, its clear presentation of solutions, and its sense of humor. It is to the point and jargon-free, not found in the typical "textbook" in school administration. Long may it—and its authors—live!


Jim Fritts,Clinical Assistant Professor, Loyola University Chicago


What Rosborg, McGee, and Burgett have written could not have come at a better time. They have focused their collective experience to provide school administrators with practical, no-nonsense advice on how to lead every school to educational excellence.


Dr. Walt Warfield, Executive Director,

Illinois Association of School Administrators


I have read What Every Superintendent and Principal Needs to Know and found it to be that perfect balance between theory and practice. The authors present real life scenarios and problems in a humorous and informative manner. I have used examples from the book in both the beginning course for Type 75 certification and the exit class. Several of my students, who are now in early stages of their administrative careers, have read the book and found in it practical solutions to real problems, with the research to back them up. The authors are talented writers who present their message in a humorous, informative manner. I heartily recommend the book for those interested in becoming school leaders and those who are currently in leadership positions.


Rick Acuncius, Ed.D, Adjunct Instructor, Dept. of Educational Leadership,

Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville


We have a short list of "must read" books for principals. What Every Superintendent and Principal Needs to Know is at the top of the list. When they start thinking about moving to the superintendency, they should read it again. Where else could they find the best practices from three successful careers crammed into one book?


David Turner, Executive Director, Illinois Principals Association


What Every Superintendent and Principal Needs to Know is a practical read for all administrators. The information in the book is straightforward and easy to read, bringing common sense information to complex issues for administrators. Every administrator should own a copy of this book!!


Kimberly E. Brave, Assistant Principal, Marion Junior High School, Marion, IL


An excellent collection of best practices and ideas in school leadership and management. All three authors combine to make a winning team.


Michael O'Boyle, Principal, Pocahontas Grade School

Bond Co. Unit #2, Pocahontas, IL


What Every Superintendent and Principal Needs to Know is a comprehensive blueprint for how to succeed as an educational leader. This is a must read for anyone in the business of doing what's best for kids!


Chad Allaman, Principal, Illini Central Grade School, Mason City, IL


What Every Superintendent and Principal Needs to Know should be required reading for any administrator! It would be difficult to duplicate the collective experiences, wisdom, and perspectives of the authors in any graduate or post-graduate program. I found the sections on ethics, buildings and grounds, planning, and increasing test scores very insightful and motivating. I highly recommend this hard-to-put-down book!


Dr. Lane Abrell, Principal, Plainfield High School, Plainfield, IL


Modestly stated, this book shares more sound, straightforward, easy-to-apply school leadership ideas and practices than any other book in print. Three of Illinois’ top educational leaders offer 336 pages of no-nonsense, often funny advice about what works and what doesn’t, ranging from assessment to personal hygiene to getting those irksome referenda passed to what to say to the press, and when. It is simply a must for every school administrator.


1st listing in the Illinois Association of School Boards' Publications Catalog


What Every Superintendent and Principal Needs to Know is a great book! I have used it as one of the required texts for a course in our post-master's certification (superintendency) program, EDL 619, Superintendent and Personnel Administration.


Margaret A. Noe, J.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership and Associate Chancellor for Access and Equal  Opportunity, University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS)



If this book isn’t more than we promise,

send it back for a full refund, even if your dog chewed on it. 

No questions asked.  

Can you afford $24.95 ($20 in digital format) to change your life?   

In truth, can you afford not to buy this book?