Superintendents' Perceptions of District Culture
Thompson, Shannon Kay
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In response to the short employment tenure of superintendents in school districts, this study examined the transition of superintendents hired new to a school district. Data were collected in this qualitative study from superintendent interviews were analyzed to determine the processes and strategies used by superintendents who were new to a school district, to learn about the district culture and to reconcile any discrepancies between their core values and the school district’s culture. Eleven superintendents from eastern and western Washington State were interviewed during the school year. The superintendents ranged in experience from one year to 22 years of leading school districts as a superintendent. The districts the superintendents led were in both rural and urban settings. The study found that many factors competed for superintendents’ time, attention, and effort as the superintendents worked to lead a school district. However, it was important for the superintendent new to a school district to simultaneously cultivate relationships with the school board, the internal school community, and the broader external community. This need required superintendents to develop strategies to learn about the expectations, history, traditions, and work of the school, the community, and its members. As strong, trusting relationships between superintendent and stakeholders developed, discrepancies concerning superintendent core values and district culture could be managed and the goals of the superintendent moved forward.