ERIC Number: ED568427
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
Making Sense of the Political Competence of Public School Superintendents: Bridging the Gap between Educational Altruism and Local Governance "Buy-In"
Tremblay, Robert A.
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, Northeastern University
School superintendents are charged with the responsibility of organizing and managing human and material resources within a complex system of interest groups and collective bargaining agreements that is largely funded by taxpayers with competing wants and needs. "The superintendency has long been regarded with three traditional leadership frames: the managerial, instructional, and political" (Burry, 2003, p. 8). Through the growing body of literature on educational leadership, we have come to know that successful managing is the coordination of people and resources to produce goods or services in an organization (Sergiovanni, 1996). Similarly, the concept of instructional leadership is well-documented throughout the literature and is indeed a central function for superintendents--even when a bulk of work related curriculum, instruction, and assessment is delegated to leaders with expertise in this area. The third frame, what Burry (2003) describes as political, is largely rooted in the relationships between school superintendents and their respective boards or committees. There is very little research, however, that examines the ways in which school superintendents understand and manage the relationships beyond those with their appointing boards. On the most practical level, this research endeavor sought to contribute to the knowledge base of school leader preparation by uncovering those strategic processes by which managers or leaders were able to articulate and ultimately realize their altruistic vision of public education within a complex, open system; a system where communication, selflessness, problem management, and strategic planning emerged as some of the essential skills inherent to the political competence that school superintendents need to be successful in their work. Using an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2012) approach to understand the lived experience of school superintendents, this study explored the experiences of four public school superintendents and how they made sense of their experiences in making connections to the external and highly politicized school community--an open system--in order to garner "buy-in" when aspiring to advance their educational agenda. Among the goals of this research was to make sense of how school superintendents understand the connection between agenda-setting and effective school leadership and how political competence--a construct that emerged out of the interview narrative--can lead to change. Surprisingly, superintendents participating in this study had no background knowledge in or awareness of agenda-setting as a function of political science. Strategies used by the study participants to mobilize stakeholders, communicate ideas, and garner buy-in were all the result of lessons learned on the job. Emergent themes around: communication, community, experience, giving away success, mentorship, perception, politics, problem management, selflessness, strategy, and trust emerged as a result of the rich discussions that took place with the study participants, most of whom did not aspire to become a school superintendent. [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: http://www.proquest.com/en-US/products/dissertations/individuals.shtml.]
Descriptors: Superintendents, Public Schools, Politics, Competence, Altruism, Governance, Phenomenology, Experience, Agenda Setting, Leadership Effectiveness
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A