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A Superintendent's Role in Creating Community

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Title: A Superintendent's Role in Creating Community
Author(s): Ahillen, Marybeth
Director of Research: Shields, Carolyn M.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Shields, Carolyn M.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Kose, Brad W.; Johnston-Parsons, Marilyn; Sloat, Linda
Department / Program: Ed Organization and Leadership
Discipline: Ed Organization and Leadership
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ed.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): superintendent community leadership and community
Abstract: The context of leadership in the public school has become increasingly complex with the pressures of high stakes testing and accountability, changing student demographics, and financial challenges. Stakeholders must work together to develop effective strategies to increase student academic performance. Successful superintendents must optimize learning by fostering relationships across the district to validate the contributions of all constituents. This demands that leaders change from the traditional bureaucracy to a model of collaboration, redefining organizations as communities. To do this, they must listen, create spaces for dialogue, and encourage risk-taking. The literature on community seeks to provide models for schools to adopt in an effort to build relationships that significantly impact teaching and learning. Those relationships occur internally within a school and school district as well as externally with the wider community. This study explores first the internal community that results from the professional learning community model. Secondly, it examines the external community in the form of school-community relationships and partnerships. The community research embraces the notion of schools operating in the larger, more comprehensive community that includes additional resources to support the needs of children and adolescents. Finally, the study focuses on the critical need for acknowledging and, moreover, building a community of difference where diversity is valued and voices are heard. The motivation for the study was to develop an understanding of the complexity of the task of a superintendent, who was new to a district, as he attempted to develop a strong sense of district community. There were two main research questions; they are as follows: 1. How does the superintendent work with the district leadership team to implement the changes necessary to build community? 2. How does the district leadership team respond to the superintendent’s efforts? The study utilized a qualitative case study methodology. Data collection involved in-depth, semi-structured interviews with a superintendent, in his first year in a new district, the assistant superintendent, three district directors, and four principals. Data were also collected from meeting observations and document analyses. Through this work, the study aimed to create a useful framework that might support a superintendent intent on building community. Findings included four emergent themes about the behaviors of the superintendent. To do this work, the superintendent must be visible, must communicate with all stakeholders, must be collaborative, allowing opportunities for dialogue, must invite others to have a voice in decision-making, and must understand the change process as they guide the district through cultural change. The study’s results can be used by university educational leadership programs to better prepare superintendents for the complexities of the current leadership landscape. Although it is important to be informed about the historical foundation of education and its implication on current practice, programs also need to include an equal emphasis on practical experience that highlights instructional leadership, managerial skills, human resources, and community-building skills. Key recommendations for superintendents planning to do this work include an intentional reflection on their personal values and beliefs to provide an anchor during challenging times. In addition, superintendents may use this study to synthesize strategies to create community across their districts in order to move forward to improve student achievement.  
Issue Date: 2010-08-20
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/16786
Rights Information: Copyright 2010 Marybeth Ahillen
Date Available in IDEALS: 2010-08-20
Date Deposited: August 201
 

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