Outsiders as school business officials in Connecticut: Using case studies to discover whether noneducators can become educational leaders

Michael James Lagas, Fordham University


School business officials have increasingly larger responsibilities in the nation's school districts. In Connecticut, individuals without any completed Education courses or prior work experience in the field of Education can become certified school business officials. The intent of the Connecticut State Education Department's decision to permit such certification was to increase the pool of candidates for school business official positions. This research describes some unintended consequences of this decision by analyzing interviews with 18 peer administrators and 2 superintendents who worked with school business officials from both inside and outside of Education. The researcher questioned interviewees regarding a progression of entry-level skills that a school business official would usually possess and then subsequently develop. Open-ended interview questions considered technical skills, human relations skills, and integration skills. The dialogues between the researcher and the interviewees were transcribed and subsequently analyzed using the Ethnograph™ software product. After analyzing all responses to a particular group of questions, the researcher segmented the responses further by creating subgroups that were based upon the interviewee's incumbent school business official's background, the interviewee's working proximity to the incumbent school business official, and the interviewee's assignment within his or her school district. The analysis of the responses indicated that a school business official's background made a difference in the minds of the other administrators. A school business official who came from outside education faced the perception that he or she did not understand the culture of education or the operational processes within school districts. Interviewees thought that school business officials who came from inside education had a distinct advantage because they understood the way activities and processes were supposed to work. Overcoming the perceived shortcomings was not impossible for school business officials from outside education. Listening ability, compassion for people, and dedication to the task of understanding education were necessary personal traits for an outsider. Interviewees expressed positive opinions about programs in higher education designed at accelerating the transition from outside education into school business official positions.

Subject Area

School administration|Management|Labor economics

Recommended Citation

Lagas, Michael James, "Outsiders as school business officials in Connecticut: Using case studies to discover whether noneducators can become educational leaders" (2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3134439.