Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
The demands and challenges placed upon individuals starting a new career as a school superintendent can be daunting. As the chief education officer (CEO) of the school district, the superintendent faces a tremendous number of dynamic issues and complex problems ( Cambron-McCabe, Cunningham, Harvey, & Koff, 2005; Kowalski, McCord, Peterson, Young, & Ellerson, 2011). At a time of increasing complexity with the role of the superintendency, approximately 49% of the individuals in the position that participated in an AASA survey in 2010 stated they planned to retire by 2015 and an additional 33% responded in an AASA survey taken in 2014 that they planned to retire by 2020, suggesting the probability of increased turnover for individuals currently employed as a school superintendent (Finnan, McCord, Stream, Mattocks, Petersen, & Ellerson, 2015; Kowalski et al., 2011). Approximately 80% of surveyed superintendents rated their academic preparation as “good” or “excellent” (Kowalski et al., 2011). However, that has not stopped politicians, business leaders, and media from writing scathing reports on the quality of university-based preparation programs for superintendents (Glass, Bjork, & Brunner, 2000; Grogan & Andrews, 2002; Levine, 2005; Murphy, 2002, 2007; Orr, 2006). Not surprisingly, administrators attribute their sources of leadership models to preparation programs for school leaders (Bjork & Lindle, 2001, p.87). While there are discrepancies in the research about the quality of the superintendent preparation programs, Kowalski (2008) identified the potential need for additional research to understand the extent practitioners and professors agree that the existing knowledge base on the superintendency is valid. Through a qualitative research design data were collected to identify what current rural superintendents believe that those aspiring to the position must do to prepare for the position. The researcher in this phenomenological study interviewed six practicing rural superintendents that were employed in at least their fifth year in a rural or small rural school district in Colorado. Four themes were identified and included past experiences and aspects of the rural superintendency. The significance of the research highlights the common lived experiences of the six participating rural superintendents and what they believe aspiring rural superintendents can do to best prepare for the position. The findings provide in-depth qualitative responses that may provide guidance to individuals interested in entering the rural superintendency. Specifically, the author revealed through the data the importance for aspiring rural superintendents to find the right fit in both the position they are seeking and the individuals they seek to hire. Additionally, the importance of understanding school finance, human resources, communication, and working with the board are identified. Implications for the research include suggestions for aspiring rural superintendents and a recommendation for policy makers to adopt the AASA standards for superintendent educational programs.
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