American superintendent longevity and time study

James Arthur Alborano, Fordham University


The American School superintendency is an institution that is now over 150 year old. With the pressures and demands from the total educational community and public at large for high performing schools that offer diversified curricular and extra-curricular programs in the information age, a series of great challenges fall on the top leaders of the nation's school systems. Many pressures that exist, the stability of public school superintendents is a quest that enhances systemic change being made and implemented. Literature indicates that there is a tradition of survival research in medicine that can be applied to tenure studies first to university presidents and then to American school superintendents. By developing and creating the original survey instrument SLATS (Superintendent Longevity and Time Study) the research surveyed a random stratified sample of school districts across the national and the universe of North Carolina, concerning district and board characteristics, superintendent characteristics, and the era in which the superintendent served. These categories were researched in order to determine what are the tenure patterns of American superintendents since 1975, how tenure had changed over time, and if tenure is predictable from district demographics and/or superintendent characteristics. The research identified 6 predictor variables that relate in concert to the survival of school superintendents during the last 25 years of the 20th century, the period of study. These variables are: (a) support for school construction and bonds in the district, (b) the level of board intrusiveness into the domain of the superintendent, (c) whether the district was recently merged or not, (d) the socioeconomic level of the district, as measured by the percentage of students on free or reduced lunch support, (e) the ethnicity of the superintendent (White or African American), and (f) whether the district hired an insider or an outsider as superintendent. One can assume from the study that 6 years is the median length of service. This means that a number of superintendents survive less than that time, and that stable, long-term standing in a position is necessary to make significant change happen. It does appear that survival has become a greater problem in the last decade or so, but not to the extent that many have forecast. The value of the survival model is that it shows certain characteristics of districts and personal characteristics of superintendents relate significantly to both turnover and longevity. How to increase the quality and number of new superintendents to replace the present cadre as they retire or otherwise move on remains a concern to all stakeholders concerned about the flow of new talent in the job pool. Recommendations made by the researcher include improving preservice and inservice training of superintendents, involving the total school community in selecting superintendents, redefine the role of the superintendent, and implement a national system of licensing superintendents.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Alborano, James Arthur, "American superintendent longevity and time study" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3040390.