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ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012

Klocko As with most construction projects, budget was a constraint that superintendents held in high regard. The board of education members felt that it was essential for superintendents to be well versed in the financial aspects of designing a sustainable school and literally know all the answers with regard to future technologies. One trustee listed the only two prerequisites for superintendents taking on a construction project, “Knowledge of finance and the ability to create a team of partners.” Preparation. Superintendents were inadequately prepared for dealing with issues regarding sustainability. All superintendents acquired the skills necessary to undertake a green building project in a “learn as you go” manner, even if they had no background in facility management. Superintendents unanimously described an absence of university preparation regarding issues of sustainability in educational leadership courses. District planning teams that depended solely on the advice and information provided by contractors felt less empowered in decision-making. One superintendent recalled the role of the architect in retrospect, “If they know they are going to work with me, they know they carry a ton of clout. If somebody was a green building proponent, I know they could have sold me, and I could have sold the Board.” Sensemaking. Superintendents who utilized sensemaking as a decision-making strategy yielded high-quality decisions. Sensemaking gave superintendents a process to make sense out of all the information surrounding a construction project in order to fulfill their ubiquitous role as steward of the taxpayer’ investment. One superintendent described the process using a sports metaphor, “You’re the coach helping bring the right elements of the team into place.” Superintendents, who received information from expert networks, even if loosely structured, were better able to make informed decisions. As one board member related, “We have faith that they are recommending the best possible materials, the best possible plan. I just used my 40 years of tradesmanship and construction and intuition to say, ‘That looks good,’ or ‘I don’t know about that.’” A superintendent advised, “A lot of it is reaching out to the expertise that may be around you that you also trust to make those decisions.” The superintendents who utilized sensemaking and expert networks along with leadership grit were better able to actively direct the design and construction of sustainable school facilities. In most cases, they did not even realize that this was what they were doing. Sensemaking involved creating mental models that suited situational needs. Through these individually constructed models, the superintendents weighed the influences, anticipated responses, and considered preliminary assessments of the alternatives. Superintendents then revised and reworked those models once new or more reliable information became available. Educational leader. Districts that assigned the chief role to another individual aside from the superintendent saved costs by building those expenses into project budgets and allowed the superintendent to be the instructional leader. Being very clear and upfront in all communication about the priorities and the commitments of the district is essential. However, one superintendent warned, “You are the instructional leader for the school district. You can easily get into the business of managing facilities construction.” The smaller the school district, the easier it is was for superintendents to have a hand on the pulse of everything. While this responsibility is often regarded as interesting or fun by most superintendents, a more efficient model places the superintendent in charge of the vision regarding the building project, leaving the day to day oversight to others. “I was at the high school construction site every day. I was intimately involved throughout the entire project,” commented one superintendent. While this superintendent welcomed the extra responsibility, 63 Vol. 3, No. 1, 2012


ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012
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