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ERIC Number: ED546111
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 170
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2675-9284-2
The Experience of School Superintendent Leadership in the 21st Century: A Phenomenological Study
Antonucci, John J.
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, Northeastern University
The purpose of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of the role of the public school superintendent, which some researchers claim is one of the most complex leadership positions seen today. The challenges of the superintendency may be contributing to a great number of professionals leaving the field, and a rate of turnover that some describe as historically high. Some superintendents even question the future of the position. With that in mind, this study seeks to provide current practitioners and future researchers a richer understanding of this one-of-a-kind job. The primary research question was: What is the lived experience of a 21st century school superintendent? Four secondary questions also provided a framework for the research: 1) What are superintendents' perceptions of their role? 2) What factors do superintendents believe impact their leadership? 3) What are the leadership skills that superintendents believe are most critical for responding to the challenges of the job? 4) How does prior academic and professional training prepare superintendents for the challenges of the job? The design of this study was qualitative and employed a phenomenological strategy of inquiry. The six study participants included five current or recently retired suburban school superintendents from the New England area who had served at least seven years in the position. The sixth participant currently serves as executive director for an independent trade association that provides direct services to superintendents in a New England state. Data was collected through face-to-face interviews conducted in the respective participants' workplaces. The study resulted in the identification of four key leadership roles served by superintendents: 1) superintendent as CEO, 2) superintendent as politician, 3) superintendent as instructional leader, and 4) superintendent as community leader. In addition, the findings were consistent with prior research that demonstrates that the job of the school superintendent is immensely complex and challenging. The six superintendents all described a job that is complete with conflict, public scrutiny, unreasonable expectations, complex relationships, and politics. Those challenges took both a personal and professional toll on superintendents. The study also explored whether superintendent turnover was a real or perceived problem and, similar to prior research, was inconclusive. The findings from this study also revealed that superintendents must bring to the table a wide and varied skill set. However, some consistencies emerged from the findings leading the researcher to conclude that there were a number of skills that were essential for successful superintendents to possess. They include expertise in: curriculum and instruction, personnel management, communication, and relationship-building. Finally, the literature review explored whether or not superintendents were adequately prepared for the job, and the results were inconclusive. Although researchers admit there is a perception that preparation program are inadequate, there is also evidence to suggest that superintendents are generally satisfied with their level of preparation. The findings of this study were similarly inconclusive, however, all of the participants agreed that superintendents would be better served by programs that incorporated more case studies, scenario-based instruction, and hands-on experiences. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A