A woman's way of leading : the story of a successful female school superintendent

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Date

2002-05

Authors

McAndrew, Sara Boone

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to tell the story of a successful female school superintendent who led her district to high levels of success and maintained that status for over two years. With the percentage of women public school superintendents remaining under 20%, the problem of the under representation and marginalization of women leaders has troubled the profession, the state and the nation. A few women have gained access to the superintendency, maintained and excelled in the position, and led their districts to high levels of success. This study told the story of such a superintendent. Focusing on the experience of one female superintendent, the study identified four major themes that included personal history and educational, xi political, and managerial leadership, and intersected with six sub-themes of character, conviction, commitment and collaboration, communication, courage, and challenge. Interpersonal, intrapersonal, political and managerial communication emerged as the dominant elements through which the superintendent blended and managed the different interests that collided in her leadership arena. The study resulted in findings that merited attention including support of the literature that pointed to the under representation and marginalization of women superintendents. The study supported previous research that described female superintendents as disadvantaged by the systems of recruitment and selection and by the male construction of the role. Despite these barriers, the story of this successful female superintendent primarily revealed a history of high achievement and outstanding accomplishment. Understanding leadership through this woman’s story supported the reconception of leadership to include the experiences of women as well as men and added to knowledge that could benefit both genders in understanding exceptional practices in leadership. The story of her success addressed the inequities that have plagued other women and called for continued research that would provide new information to women to aspire to the public school superintendency. This study called for educational leadership preparation programs in universities and in current xii educational settings that focus on the inequities of gender bias in order to increase the skills of all leaders. This story of a woman’s way of leading proved compelling and a story worth telling.

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