AASA NCE2020 Guest Blog by By Jill Siler, Gunter ISD Superintendent
The disparity between men and women in leadership is well documented in many professions, but none quite as ironic as in education, where over 75% of classroom teachers are female and yet less than 25% of superintendents are female. This month’s School Administrator magazine dives deep into the issues around women in the superintendency and this month’s blogs are featuring 3 extraordinary leaders who were not only nominated for AASA’s Women in School Leadership Superintendent of the Year, but who are also doing incredible things for kids: Dr. LaTonya Goffney, Dr. Candace Singh and Dr. Susan Enfield.
Within the first minutes of meeting Dr. Candace Singh I could literally feel her energy and passion emanate to everyone around her! Yet her contagious enthusiasm started through humble beginnings as well. She is a first-generation college graduate who knew from a young age that she wanted to become a teacher. She was quickly tapped for leadership positions and became a principal on a high poverty campus and was relentless in turning around the educational trajectories of every student. She took that same calling to Fallbrook as a superintendent and set a clear goal to do whatever it takes to ensure that all kids achieve.
The woman who most influenced Candy is her mom. After raising her own children, she went back to college in her 40s and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degree in counseling. Candy got an early glimpse into the world of executive school leadership as her mom served as a 5-term school board member in two different school districts. Candy notes that no one understands board members like she does, because she grew up with one! And Candy’s mom was the best of the best – valued education and educators and was a champion for kids!
When asked the best and most challenging parts of the superintendency, the answers came in a flurry… There is such joy in learning; in the faces of our young (and not so young) learners when they come to new understandings. She loves reigniting passion in educators and hearing them remark that “I’m back to why I started teaching in the first place” as Candy has been able to incorporate problem-based learning and engage teachers in the future of the district. The challenges are just as immense – from the lack of resources to the very real challenges of trauma and social & emotional needs of students and staff. Dr. Singh noted that schools are underfunded and overburdened and that closing the gaps requires great resources. This deep passion has led her to be a staunch advocate of public schools in her state and beyond.
Her advice to future women leaders is to look to people you’d like to emulate. While there are many role models out there, the number of women superintendents are still limited. But in today’s technological world, they are visible and accessible like never before. She encourages women to “find someone close to you; someone who is a little ahead of where you are and begin to build network and connections.” She shared that those connections and network have been a powerful component of AASA’s Women Aspiring Superintendent Academy that Dr. Singh helped launch earlier this year. She shares that women often struggle with confidence and the way to build that is through slowly taking more and more responsibility and building on that success. This will lead to confidence, and combined with the connections you make, you’ll find success!
In the March School Administrator magazine, Dr. Marilou Ryder wrote “Executive Presence: What it takes to get ahead, influence others and drive results.” She noted that for years men have acquired “rapid leadership promotions over females in female-dominated professions” and when prompted on how to remedy this, Ryder notes that “women need to emulate what men have done so well in the field of education — become fearless competitors, take risks, exude confidence, sit in the front of the room and speak up to be heard.” I would encourage any aspiring or successful leader (male or female) to hitch your star to Dr. Candace Singh, because she is all that and more!