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Bigger Isn't Always Better

A Leadership Guide for Small School Administrators

George Murdock

Bigger Isn't Always Better is designed to provide a practitioner's viewpoint of the challenges and issues lacing school administrators – particularly those who work in small districts. Based upon a combination of education theory and practical applications, the book contains many real life exampleswith tips for landing a job as administrator and then making a positive and successful first impression through a deliberate entry plan. Bigger Isn't Always Better addresses both the technical aspects of an administrator’s assignment, as well as the administrator’s leading, mediating role while working with the school board, with school staff, or the school’s community. Readers will learn about a variety of potential pitfalls and situations that most new administrators face, with the benefit of learning how to over come and avoid such problems based on the author’s four decades in the profession.
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R&L Education
Pages: 122Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
978-1-61048-720-7 • Hardback • January 2012 • $46.00 • (£31.95)
978-1-61048-721-4 • Paperback • January 2012 • $25.00 • (£15.95)
978-1-61048-722-1 • eBook • January 2012 • $23.00 • (£15.95)
George Murdock is superintendent of the Douglas Education Service District in Roseburg. Oregon. He has 41 Years of experience as an administrator that include serving as superintendent in several small districts.
Chapter One: Perpetuating Small Schools
Chapter Two: Getting (And Keeping) The Job
Chapter Three: Creating An Entry Plan
Chapter Four: Effective Leadership & Decision-Making
Chapter Five: Board—Superintendent Relations
Chapter Six: Developing An Effective Format For Board Meetings
Chapter Seven: Creating An Administrative Evaluation System
Chapter Eight: Creating An Effective Communications Program
Chapter Nine: Building A Foundation For Effective Community Relations
Chapter Ten: Building A Foundation For Effective Staff Relations
Chapter Eleven: Maintenance & Facilities
Chapter Twelve: Fiscal Management
Chapter Thirteen: Human Resources & Negotiations
Chapter Fourteen: Instructional Leadership & Student Achievement
About The Author
With Bigger Isn’t Always Better, George Murdock has written a must-read for all school administrators. It is of special value for those who serve in small rural districts. It is a wonderful combination of research-based information and anecdotal information. The book is an easy, interesting read. Mr. Murdock is the right person to write this book because he has walked the walk.
The book is packed with advice, ranging from how to apply for an administrative job in a rural setting, to how to function once the position is secured. Much of the information is presented in the form of stories from the front lines. These anecdotal stories are designed to enlighten and inform, and they do both of these things. Also contained are several cautionary tales that are about incidents that forced the administrator to seek new employment.

While the information is sometimes humorous, it always focused on the skills needed to be successful in a rural setting. Early on he makes the point that people are employed because of their technical skills, but are dismissed because of their inability to maintain productive relationships with the board, the staff and the community. George Murdock provides the activities that rural administrators must undertake to develop positive, productive relationships.

If the goal of a book is to inform and entertain, then George Murdock is on the mark with his book “Bigger Isn’t Always Better.”

Al Meunier, director, Eastern Oregon Leadership Center; former superintendent, Pendleton School District, Pendleton, Oregon

The roles and responsibilities of small school administrators vary greatly from those of administrators in larger systems. While larger systems have specialized leaders for each area of school administration, small school administrators often have only the face they see in the mirror each morning to guide them through the day’s events. “Bigger Isn’t Always Better: A Leadership Guide for Small School Administrators” will serve as a favorite resource book for any administrator and as an essential survival guide for administrators in smaller systems.

Isolation is a frequent challenge for small school administrators. George Murdock has long served as an instructor and mentor for school leaders through Eastern Washington and Oregon. His guide allows his collective wisdom from years in administration to be passed along in a format that reads much like a mentor’s treasured advice. Murdock presents his information with a mix of research, story-telling and quick tips to allow readers to prepare for, reflect upon, and refine practices in a plethora of areas.

Murdock’s varied experiences are evident in this book. It is rare to find an all-encompassing leadership guide; yet, the book covers small-town administration topics thoroughly. The book begins just as an administrative career begins, with application pointers and interviewing advice. Once one has secured the position, Murdock leads the young administrator through the crucial elements of getting to know the staff and assessing the needs of the position. Murdock places heavy emphasis on communication and shares stories of successful communication, and the results of poor communication, to guide the reader through communication plans for use with staff, students, School Boards and the community.

Facilities, fiscal, and human resource management are present in the job descriptions of many small school leaders, yet absent in most school leadership books. Murdock covers these topics in depth with specific examples and useful lessons for each area. Administrators who utilize the guide will not be left to search for resources on the various job responsibilities, instead, the guide supplies them advice on virtually every topic a new administrator will face in the first few years of the job.

Small-schools will continue to thrive in the United States and many educational leaders will enjoy their start, or their entire career, in small schools. “Bigger Isn’t Always Better: A Leadership Guide for Small School Administrators” will serve as an invaluable resource to help leaders understand the hidden social rules of small-school leadership as well as the basic mechanics of success in administrative positions. The book is short on theory and long in practical advice- exactly what new administrators seek as they enter their careers. Murdock’s work will be a welcome resource to any small-school administrator.

Heidi Sipe

What a necessary read for anyone serving as an administrator in a small rural area! This book serves as a sort of survival manual to navigate the systems and culture that are unique to these communities. Murdock states that the most important element is common sense in regards to successful small school leadership. While this is absolutely true, it is equally essential to have a fall back to go to for guidance or to affirm that you are on the right track; this book does both. Having been raised in one of these communities, I can relate to the many threads that are woven throughout this book and believe that Murdock has done an excellent job of capturing the complexities that those of us in leadership positions face.

For a new administrator, regardless of whether they are in a small, rural school or not, this book affords much of the common sense pieces and best practices that Murdock has picked up throughout his many years of serving in Oregon and Washington. I have shared this with an aspiring administrator in my district and she stated that it even prepared her for a job interview as a building principal recently. Although I have served in both small and large schools in the state, this book helped me reflect this past year as I began to lead my new district as their superintendent. The book really helps you prioritize and gain a better sense of what you stand for as an administrator.

Nanette Hagen