Perceptions of special education directors of the superintendent’s role in special education leadership : voices from the field
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School district leaders who have been well-prepared can positively impact student achievement in their school districts. In the area of special education, however, some superintendents appear to be less well-prepared for their role. Perhaps as a result, studies investigating superintendents’ roles and responsibilities in special education have revealed a focus primarily on the areas of budgeting and legal compliance when working with special education directors. While the responsibilities of the superintendent may be established in the eyes of the superintendent (Chaffin, 2013; Cope, 2002; Porter, 1999; Volpe, 2006), what is not well known is what special education directors perceive as the role of the superintendent in regards to special education (Volpe, 2006; Thompson & O’Brian, 2007). This study focused on the perceptions of special education directors on the role of superintendents in special education and the relationship between special education directors and superintendents. The study serves as an explorative qualitative study using grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). Data was collected through interviews of special education directors and a review of publicly accessible documents. Participants were selected from currently-practicing special education directors in public school districts who have served in that capacity for at least two years. Major findings of this study suggest that self-perception of the role of special education directors is broader than what is revealed in current literature. The findings also support a number of roles for the superintendent in special education beyond finance and legal compliance and that special education directors perceive their relationship with the superintendent as both indirect and informal.