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School Administrator, October 2022

Ongoing Legacy Work

As I was catching up on all the newly appointed school superintendents from across the country celebrating their first day on the job, I at once thought of my good friend and mentor Steve Joel. He recently authored “An Unexpected Journey Filled With Purpose” (June 2022). Reflecting on his long and outstanding career as a superintendent, he framed five points that would resonate with anyone who has made the superintendent’s journey, but what came to mind is the gift Joel was presenting to anyone starting the journey or transitioning to a new district.

Many times, as school leaders, WE BECOME DISORIENTED IN THE DIFFICULTY OF THE MOMENT AND SOMETIMES LOSE OUR BEARINGS, but he skillfully outlined the familiar challenges and obstacles in such a way that you could hear his voice giving guidance and reassurance.

Joel’s narrative was beautifully framed, but what truly resonated so appropriately for today’s challenging times was the guidance. He asks us to remember “most of the negative experiences originate with small but vocal groups that must be addressed, yet they are not the majority” and the “key to survival is to ensure the majority doesn’t lose confidence in your leadership!”

Well done, Steve Joel. Your leadership legacy will continue for years to come!


Steve Joel’s article, “An Unexpected Journey Filled With Purpose,” provided an especially thoughtful, eloquent and insightful article that features five coping mechanisms for superintendents. Joel suggests viewing challenges as opportunities and shares his ever-passionate drive and desire to overcome obstacles to make things better for the children and communities he served in as superintendent.

Every superintendent can relate to Joel’s references regarding the increasing social media misinformation, political divisiveness and contentiousness and the absolute loneliness that accompanies the superintendent’s position.

He writes: “Key to survival is ensuring that the majority does not lose confidence in your leadership” and then provides practical strategies for how to make decisions and keep children at the center. Those ideas should resonate with beginning superintendents and serve as important reminders for veteran leaders.

To succeed, Joel cites building, fostering and maintaining relationships, visibility and relying on the strengths of others, pointing to the value of AASA and networking with professionals.

Perhaps his greatest statement represents a resounding and optimistic call to action: “We are in the business of supporting children and our leadership is needed if our democracy and our young people are to flourish.” It is, after all, our children who remain the best hope for the future. It is easy to say, as Fred Rogers said, “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then, there are superintendent leaders, like Steve Joel, who see the need and respond.

Thank you for enabling him to share his superintendent experiences, wisdom, mentorship and, most importantly, his commitment to education that encompassed a lifetime of service to meeting the needs of our children. We are looking forward to his ongoing leadership and legacy work.



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