Dr. Susan Kincannon, EdD ’10, is superintendent of Belton ISD. A graduate of Mary Hardin-Baylor with a master’s in educational administration from Tarleton State, Kincannon was a teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and deputy superintendent before taking on the superintendency in 2011.
Was being a superintendent your goal when you entered the education field?
When I started teaching 27 years ago, I had no idea that I would become a superintendent. My mother was a teacher, and I always knew that I wanted to teach also.
Are there lessons from classroom teaching that stay with you?
I learned the importance of being flexible and creative. One day I was visiting with my principal about how to manage a young, struggling student, and she said to me, “Try something different.” I took that to heart and have never forgotten it. I am constantly looking for new ways to do things and know that it’s up to me to generate ideas for continual improvement.
What accomplishments of Belton ISD make you especially proud?
I’m proud of the quality of our programs and the success of our students. At the high school level, we have over 60 dual credit and advance placement offerings, nearly 100 career and technical courses, 22 fine arts programs and 21 varsity sports teams. Last year, over 100 recognitions as Advanced Placement Scholars were awarded to our students. Our Construction Trades team won the state championship three years in a row. We implemented a one-to-one digital learning initiative that provides a technology device for learning to every secondary student. I am also proud of the way in which we have been able to manage our growth, because Belton is a fast-growth district.
What does it mean to be a fast-growth district?
Belton ISD has grown by over 300 students each year. Since I became superintendent, we have opened two new middle schools and two new elementary campuses. In addition, new schools have opened in repurposed facilities, and a multisport athletic facility was constructed. We have new programs in STEM, engineering and computer science.
What philosophy of leadership helps you manage the growth?
Leadership is complex, and I believe that planning and execution along with strong communication skills are essential to being an effective educational leader. We have been able to manage growth through careful planning.
Why did you choose Baylor for an EdD focused on curriculum?
My foundations are in curriculum, so I knew that deepening my knowledge would allow me to have more impact. Baylor was the perfect choice for me. It is a Division I school yet was close enough for me to experience face-to-face classes; the evening and summer courses worked well for me. I could have selected a number of universities, and I’m proud that I chose Baylor.
What is your biggest challenge as a superintendent?
My biggest challenge as a superintendent is the complexity and number of systems operating as a part of the larger organization of the district. A superintendent is responsible for not only the instruction of the students but also the management of multiple and diverse departments – food service, transportation, custodial, and maintenance. In addition, a superintendent is a community leader who develops partnerships with community organizations – economic development councils, chambers of commerce, cities, etc.
Communication is another area of challenge. With so much information available on social media and the ability for information to spread quickly, it has become increasingly important to provide timely, high quality communication to our parents and community.
What areas of innovation do you think are important for school districts to pursue?
School districts must continue to stay in tune with the needs of local employers and ensure that students are ready to be successful when they graduate. In Belton ISD, our focus has been on improving the use of digital integration and building partnerships with local businesses to ensure that we are meeting industry standards.
Your dissertation was about PLCs and science achievement. Did you come in to Baylor with that interest or pick it up here at Baylor? How did the dissertation experience build your skills?
Organizational learning was at the heart of my focus during that time period of my professional career. As the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, I was in the middle of implementing a professional development initiative in our district using lesson study to develop teachers’ knowledge and skills in core content areas. The goal of the professional development model was to have teachers work interdependently to develop lessons and analyze student achievement. I saw the value of professional learning communities and job-embedded learning.
I integrated my study at Baylor with the work of Belton ISD. While working on my dissertation, I used Rick DuFour’s professional learning community concepts to discuss and build leadership skills with our campus principals. I believe in the power of teams to achieve a common mission.
Dr. Betty Conaway was the faculty member who had the most impact on me in the program. I appreciated and admired her depth of knowledge in curriculum and instruction. Selected readings and topics for her courses were aligned to current educational topics.