Finding and hiring your superintendent

Determining qualifications

Employing a superintendent is arguably the most critical decision a school board can make. The choice may be difficult, but the basics of the process are fairly simple. 

Superintendents are not required by law to hold a professional license. This means that any person may serve as a superintendent, as long as they meet the qualifications set by the board. However, the board may determine that it is necessary or desirable for the superintendent to hold an administrator’s license issued by the Colorado Department of Education.

To obtain an administrator’s license, an individual must demonstrate knowledge in basic management, leadership, decision-making and problem solving, communication and human relations, personnel administration, resource utilization, child growth and development, and knowledge and application of standards-based education. C.R.S. § 22-60.5-308. Therefore, if a candidate for the superintendency does hold a Colorado administrator’s license, it is likely that most of the desired education requirements have been fulfilled.

The personal qualifications of the superintendent are critically important. In addition to having the knowledge and executive skills required of the position, this person must be able to communicate and relate well with the staff and citizens of the community. The ability to establish rapport, speak, write and listen well, and exercise good common sense are qualifications that every board would hope to find in its superintendent.

Assessing candidates

When employing a superintendent, the board should decide required qualifications, salary, other terms of the contract and procedures to be observed in the selection process. The board should actively look for candidates. Consideration should be given to qualified people within the school system as well as those applying from the outside. 

The entire board may wish to take part in screening applications. However, this can become quite time-consuming. Some boards have successfully used a consultant to assist in the initial screening process. The screening should reduce the number of applicants to four or five, and these candidates should be invited in for an interview with the board. It generally is advisable to use the same questions in each interview to permit comparisons.

Ultimately, the interview process should reduce the number of candidates to two or three. State law requires that the board make public the list of finalists it is considering for the superintendent’s position no later than 14 days prior to appointing or employing one of the finalists to fill the position. C.R.S. § 24-6-402(3.5). The board cannot make a final offer of employment until this 14-day waiting period has passed.

Announcing the board’s choice

The final decision on the appointment of the superintendent is the responsibility of the entire board. Unanimous election is, of course, desired but not required. Announcement of the appointment should be in the form of a prepared board statement and should show the qualifications of the person selected. No announcement should be made until the person selected has accepted the position.


The law requires a written contract for the superintendent, but the terms of those contracts are left largely to negotiations between the board and the individual. C.R.S. § 22-63-202. Typically, the contract defines the board-superintendent relationship, the superintendent’s salary and other terms of service, including the annual evaluation process and grounds for termination. Boards should review and understand the terms of their superintendent’s contract and are advised to seek legal counsel when negotiating or renegotiating their superintendent’s contract.

Additional resources

For additional information about the legal requirements pertaining to superintendent searches, please sign in with your CASB username and password to access CASB’s legal memos and sample board resolutions on this topic.

  • Superintendent Search Memo
  • Interim Superintendent Search Memo
  • Executive Session Guidance for Boards Conducting a Superintendent Search
  • Executive Session Guidance for Superintendent Search Committees
  • Sample board resolutions regarding declaring superintendent finalists and appointing a superintendent
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