Cultivating the Next Generation of Women Leaders in Schools and Districts
LaTanya McDade became superintendent of Virginia’s Prince William County Public Schools in July 2021, while the district was still reeling from the effects of the pandemic.
A veteran district administrator who’d served as the chief education officer in Chicago, McDade is also the first woman and African American to lead Prince William County schools.
While the local school board has been supportive, districts and companies often don’t know what they don’t know when they have to accommodate the first woman or the first woman of color, she said.
McDade spoke with Education Week as part of a series of interviews on women in education leadership.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You’ve said there’s no ‘playbook’ for how to support women leading school districts. Should there be one?
I think there should be some framework, and I think there should be some training for boards that are hiring superintendents.
One of the things that was so disheartening to me when I was going through the process of applying for the superintendency was that a close friend of mine was also applying for a superintendent role. She had a child who was still in high school, and she let them know she would be moving to the region but her daughter was going to stay in school where they were, with her dad, until she graduated from high school. [Then] they would move with her.
The school board, literally, during the interview process, discussed it, and one person said that was a deal breaker for her. So today we are still dealing with the gender roles and stereotypes of what women can and can’t do if they’re a mother, if they’re a wife.
So I do think a framework is necessary. I also think there’s training that needs to be provided to hiring managers and school boards when they are looking for the best candidate and they hire a woman, [around] the tools that are symbolic of unconscious bias that need to be addressed.