To be proactive and to broaden our leadership agenda, we must
recognize that the first and foremost mission of the public schools is
their civic mission. In these times of making education the foremost
instrument of the global economy while making public schools the
scapegoat for society’s lack of will to tackle the messy issues of race and
class, that mission has gotten lost. What would it take to recapture the
deepest reasons we have public schools? What would it take to confront
the issues of how we keep children whole and how we address the needs
of the whole child in an era in which children are being sliced and diced
into categories on standardized tests? What is the role of local districts,
of local control, when state and federal bureaucracies are making the
decisions and calling the dance? What are the implications of all this
for education and for democracy?
We, the editors of this volume, are both long-time superintendents
of schools who have lived and enacted the role in recent years. Phil
Townsend is a fictional character, but his story is typical of what we
have heard from far too many of our colleagues across the country. We
empathize with those like Phil and agree that what it means to be the
leader of a local school system has changed dramatically and continues
to change in response to the changing times and contexts.
We intend this volume to provide hope that despite the daunting
challenges educational leaders like Phil face today, they have more to
look forward to than retirement.
One of the findings that we found fascinating was the variety of sources of energy and the courage that kept our authors going when confronted with obstacles that might be insurmountable to many. As you read Beverly Hall’s story, you will feel the passion that she brings to her superintendency, passion that is fueled by her beliefs—belief in poor children’s ability to learn at high levels and belief in her staff that they can make it happen.
In one of our conversations with Allan Alson, he shared his belief that superintendents need to be politicians before they can be educators. His story illustrates that political and educational leadership are inextricably linked, as he describes his 14-year focus on and commitment to narrowing the achievement gap while working tirelessly with his different constituents to bring them into the process.
Hearing from our different authors clarified for us that leadership styles are a combination of tacit beliefs, experience, and personal qualities as much as conscious decisions about approaches to work, and are as varied as people are. What emerges as a common factor contributing to success is authenticity—consistency of words with actions—that enables the development of trusting relationships. Larry Leverett tells his story of one leader with one leadership style who moves between two different school districts with very different cultures.
Superintendents often mourn the “good old days” when they were educators and did not need to worry about the managerial and political aspects of their districts. Linda Hanson shows how effective a superintendent can be in the role of educator as she and her reading staff help their school board understand the implications of a mandatory graduation test.
Most of us at some point in our career have to face the fact that we cannot control everything that happens in our district. As we mentioned in our introduction, we learn that even logical plans implemented skillfully can meet unexpected, uncontrollable obstacles. This can have serious consequences, from the lack of achievement for students to the loss of our jobs. Our anonymous contributor shares his courageous story of holding fast to what is best for children in the face of adversity, and ultimately having to make the decision whether to fight for his job or not. NSSE has never published an anonymous contribution before, but we agreed that “Juan’s” story was too valuable not to share.
We found the enactment of democratic ideals to be a common theme throughout all of our authors’ stories as they describe their work to transform their districts. Becky van der Bogert shares her joys, struggles, and lessons learned that surround a deep commitment to trying to model democratic ideals in her leadership style.
When superintendents gather in private conversations, it is likely the question “What’s your board like?” will be raised. Becky Hurley speaks eloquently from a board member’s perspective about the steep learning curve that she experienced and how she developed a productive working relationship with her superintendent and with other board members.
Most of us started our superintendency committed to keeping our eye on the higher purposes of education, vowing not to get bogged down in the managerial details. John Wiens shares his quest for an intellectual understanding of the role, a meaningful theory of leadership, and the creation of an environment that helped others pursue similar quests.
Being a superintendent is much like the new technology you purchase—the
manual is difficult to read and understand, the help line is
difficult to reach, and the consultation charge to learn from experts is
costly. It is a job that requires enormous flexibility, attention to multiple
perspectives, and an internal set of checks and balances to withstand the
pressures of external demands from a public that has, in many ways,
been distracted from the real purpose of a public education system.
In this book, school district leaders do an honest and credible job
of describing their struggles with external forces and the surprises,
disappointments, and puzzlements that naturally accompany those
struggles. In some stories, we also see an internal focus, leaders stepping
back to question “the entity”—the mind that engages the world—in an
effort to gain a clearer picture of their own behavior, its consequences,
and its antecedents. In other stories, however, leaders speak as if they
share an unspoken assumption that the superintendent mind is an entity,
stable and nonchanging, at once wise and considerate, if sometimes
frustrated and perplexed. These superintendents reveal little of their
Through a narrative, participatory research process the voices and experiences of three bilingual high school students are presented and interpreted through a critical pedagogical lens.
Curriculum workers, supervisors, and others in leadership roles
are frequently daunted by essentially political forces and pressures that
call for compromise of professional standards or ethics or the diversion
of energies intended to benefit children to other and less legitimate
activities. In some cases, the pressures take the form of mandates or
their equivalent from state governments, state agencies, or other
powerful entities seeking to accomplish certain broad social or
political goals through the instrument of public education. In other
cases, the pressures are more localized and originate with parents, both
individually and collectively, with boards of education, or with the
administrative officers of the local school district. On occasion the
pressures come from prestigious persons, organizations, or other
opinion-influencing entities such as the media. Whatever their origins
or their merit, such pressures sometimes pose enormous problems for
supervisors and eventually dilute, alter, or imperil the overall quality
of educational services. In this chapter we examine these pressures and
consider how curriculum workers are affected by and deal with them.
Teacher supervision is suffering from a legacy of being affiliated with an outmoded integration of science and technology. Dialectical supervision, which emphasizes empowering teachers with ways of knowing that involve continually confronting themselves and searching for more responsive and less dominant educative practices, is proposed as an oppositional view to that of hierarchical scientific management of teaching.
A call to consider assertive forms of school leadership.
Teacher evaluation can be a potent school-improvement tool not because it puts a floor under classroom practices—the goal of accountability-based evaluation models—but because it addresses the incentives central to individual development and the teacher’s sense of professionalism. Evaluation when seen in this light cannot be subjected to the quick fix, but requires the interaction of a host of factors that build on the norms and values central to the teaching profession.
It is the author’s perception that the concern with theory research has faltered. In the past, he has offered three or four standard answers to that question: 1. The concern for theory based research became a movement and ran out of steam; 2. The nature of the research professorship in educational administration; 3. The nature of the research professor in educational administration; 4. The encounter of the movement with the 1960s.
This chapter moves on from these introductory but basic discussions
to a consideration of the scope and organization of vocational
education. In simple terms and as concisely as possible the chapter
aims to present the principles of administration and supervision which
should be operative in any program of vocational education. Such
principles are not new. They typify good practice in business and
industry as well as in schools. The virtue of their reiteration in this
volume lies in the emphasis given to the responsibility placed upon the
general administrator and in their application to the peculiar problems
in the vocational area.
Striking conditions out of which supervisory problems in geographic education arise are: (1) the irregular and scant training of teachers themselves in modern geographic education; (2) the transition period through which the concept or definition of geography has been passing, with inevitable confusion in thinking; (3) limited equipment as to materials of true geographic quality in elementary and secondary schools and collegiate institutions; (4) difficulty encountered by teachers and supervisors in their efforts to acquire appropriate preparation in this new geographic education.
Acknowledging the growing acceptability of a diminishing level of privacy protection in the U.S., this commentary examines three case studies that together reflect the challenges faced by members of the education community in this context: the 2007 massacre perpetrated by 23-year-old Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in the strip search of 13-year-old Arizona student Savana Redding, and the 2010 suicide of 18-year-old Rutgers student Tyler Clementi. Although the three events may appear very different from each other at first glance, an analysis of what transpired reveals many parallels and offers opportunities for education leaders to begin the process of regaining the elusive middle ground in this area.
A student facing expulsion from a public university is entitled to a due process hearing at some point in the expulsion process, even if university officials perceive the student to be dangerous.
An Illinois school board fired a tenured guidance counselor because he self-published a sexually explicit advice book on adult relationships. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the school board's decision on the grounds that the board reasonably believed that the book could undermine the integrity of the school counseling program.
Last year marked the tenth anniversary of the film Mean Girls. This film has brought widespread attention to the difficulties of navigating high school peer relationships, including the pain of relational aggression (or relational bullying). As the name implies, relational aggression is defined as behavior aimed at harming another’s relationships, and includes spreading rumors and social exclusion. The longstanding popularity of Mean Girls makes it clear that the movie continues to strike a chord in popular culture. Despite popular interest and growing research, the majority of school-based intervention programs have focused solely on physical aggression to the exclusion of relational aggression. This commentary discusses recent empirical findings on relational aggression and offers suggestions for how educators can use this research to decrease mean behaviors on their campuses.