How to Become an Education Administrator

James Brescia is the superintendent of the Cayucos Elementary School District in Cayucos, California. He is also a visiting professor of educational leadership and administration at California Polytechnic State University. He has worked in the education field since 1988, when he started teaching for the San Diego Unified School District. James earned his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of California, San Diego, before he went on to earn master’s degrees in humanities and educational leadership. He then earned a PhD in educational leadership from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In addition to his degrees, James holds basic teaching credentials as well as California administrative services credentials.

What is educational leadership?

Moving the organization forward by creating synergy, collective goals, and empowering the stakeholders in order to achieve the organizational mission.

Why did you decide to become an administrator in the education field?

I was asked to consider a leadership position by a friend (colleague) I respected.

Are there common misconceptions about your profession?

There is a very large difference between leadership and management. Most people view leadership as management.

What is a typical day like for you?

I work 50-60 hours per week. I also work about two evenings per week and attend school, district, and county meetings.

What are your favorite aspects of your job in educational leadership?

Allowing others to assume leadership roles in the system that create positive change or synergy.

What are your least favorite aspects of your job in educational leadership?

The large amount of red tape and the layers of paperwork.

Is there anything you would have done differently while studying to become an administrator in the education field?

I would have placed more emphasis on understanding the system and looking at the big picture.

What personality traits do you think a student should have in order to be successful in an educational leadership program?

Have an open mind and a willingness to do the right things, not just the easiest. Many administrators simply do what is least difficult, not necessarily what is best for the organization.

Do you think educational leadership is a subject that can be studied online, or is a traditional class environment ideal?

Yes, with a solid professional development component that connects the participants to those in the field with current information about our practice.

What subjects should a prospective student of educational leadership study before entering a formal college program?

Business management, leadership styles, and communication skills.

What pieces of advice, or caution, would you offer to a prospective student of educational leadership?

Do not try to boil the ocean, just do the very best you can and treat everyone, even those you do not like, with respect.