A study of the career paths and patterns of African American superintendents




Dunlop, Howard Kevan, 1954-

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The purpose of this descriptive study was to investigate the professional experiences of African American superintendents. The research questions focused on: (1) career path and career patterns; (2) the extent of selected characteristics of their school districts prior and during their tenure as superintendents; and (3) the perceived racial barriers facing African American superintendents seeking the superintendency. A descriptive survey questionnaire was mailed to 202 African American superintendents. Frequency distribution and means were used to provide descriptive findings about career paths and career patterns. Correlations were used to identify the significance of relationships between prior and current selected school district characteristics. Perceived racial barriers were analyzed using a qualitative content analysis format. The findings of the study provided noteworthy information regarding biographical data, career paths to the superintendency, and career patterns of African American superintendents. This study offers concrete substantiation of the differences and similarities between African American superintendents and the general population of superintendents in the areas of age, gender, marital status, salary, highest degree held, positions prior to the superintendency, process for selection, and other professionally related variables. The findings further revealed that African American superintendents are associated with primarily two career path groups: traditional intermediate route and traditional long route in their path to the superintendency. Additionally, data from the study revealed numerous perceived racial barriers facing African Americans seeking superintendency positions. These barriers include: mobility, networking, boards of education, preparation and competence, opportunities, unrealistic expectations, lack of support, and discrimination. Furthermore, the findings indicated several significant correlations between prior and current school district characteristics. These findings include an increase in the following: current operating expense per-pupil, number of African American teachers, African American population, and African American female school board members in school districts where African Americans were superintendents. The findings of the study also indicate a decrease in White student enrollment and number of White teachers in school districts where African Americans were superintendents.