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date: 26 February 2021

Sustaining and Sustainable Superintendent Leadershiplocked

  • Michael WrightMichael WrightBlue Ridge Unified School District No. 32 (Arizona)
  •  and Rosemary PapaRosemary PapaSoka University of America

Summary

The educational environment of the 21st century is complex and dynamic, placing demands on school leaderships that are both considerable and constant. Societal challenges such as school shootings, drugs, alcohol, and other problems are more frequently finding their way into U.S. classroom settings, which only further complicates the role of the superintendent. At times, superintendents may believe U.S. public schools are under attack, especially given prevailing political forces driving the marketization and privatization of schools. The elements connected to the sustainment and sustainability of superintendents, especially superintendent turnover, as a result of the following pressures are defined: school safety and security, social media, less parental involvement, and increased federal influence; continued divestment in public education and declining student enrollment; and pressure to perform by public school administrators. Superintendent departure research further considers: factors contributing to longevity and the cost of turnover; differences between superintendents and board members; reasons superintendents leave; stakeholder expectations and political pressures; increased accountability; and differences in expectations between the board and superintendent. Sustainable leadership is required between the superintendent and the board. Teamwork leads to greater effectiveness.

Overall, the result of increased competition and dwindling levels of federal and state school funding very often means superintendents face complicated choices and difficult dilemmas—particularly relating to the allocation of scarce financial resources. For instance, school leaders nationwide are frequently forced to balance the tension existing between academic and non-academic programs, in a time when funding is woefully insufficient. Superintendents must often forgo hiring additional teachers, or purchasing required classroom support materials, and forgo school facility repairs, in order to enhance school safety and security. The increased accountability for school performance also weighs heavily on administrators, faculty, and staff, and especially the superintendent. Such pressures increase the level of superintendent turnover.

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