A superintendent and principals : degrees of vision alignment : a case study

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Ewing, Randy Dennis, 1951-

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At the beginning of the twenty-first century, school districts face a myriad of challenges including a steady stream of calls for reform, major shifts in demographics and increasing accountability standards. Despite the calls for reform and the threat of sanctions, school districts have found it difficult to affect significant changes in the gaps between the academic success rates for those who are identified as Economically Disadvantaged or minority and their more affluent, white students. The literature on change, on motivation, and on successful organizations quite often suggests having a “shared vision” as a prerequisite for success. The research specifically examining vision as a critical variable in school district-level success is limited. This study sought to examine vision as a “shared” or aligned component of success as perceived from the perspectives of the superintendent and principals in a successful urban school district. While there are questions about various aspects of vision that could be examined, this study drew its focus from three. The research questions the study considered were: What does the superintendent perceive the essential components of the district’s vision to be? What do the principals perceive the essential components of the district’s vision to be? Are the principal’s perceptions of the vision aligned with the perceptions of the superintendent? This study used qualitative research methods to study the strategies and practices employed by the superintendent of Compass ISD to generate a shared vision of success. Data for this study was from information from the Texas Education Agency, district publications and one-on-one interviews with the superintendent and several principals. Findings revealed a strong alignment of the superintendent’s perception of the vision for the district with those perceptions held by campus principals. The vision became a shared vision through the use of communication strategies, the establishment of desired results, setting guidelines for achieving those results, the appropriation of resources, through sharing accountability methods and measures, and by making the consequences for success or failure in achieving those standards known. The superintendent used data as a frame for his communications and for his decisions in all areas.