Hispanic female superintendents: Making history as leaders of urban city districts

Doris Torres, Fordham University


The school superintendency is a public service position that has been historically, and still continues to be dominated nationwide by White males (Glass, Bjork, & Brunner, 2000). Comparatively, the number of female superintendents remains low, and the number of Hispanic female superintendents is fewer still (Ortiz, 1999). Moreover, the statistics of Hispanics are growing at a disproportionate rate, and the representation by Hispanic female superintendents does not reflect the growing rate of Hispanic students throughout the nation. This qualitative study examines and identifies the factors and personal characteristics of 6 Hispanic female Community District superintendents of New York City prior to the 2003 organizational restructuring of the Department of Education. The findings presented a profile of women in their mid 50s, most of whom were born in New York City to parents of largely Puerto Rican descent. The parents were primarily blue-collar workers, with a few mothers having achieved professional jobs because of their college education. Most of the participants had attended Catholic high schools, and of those married, all were involved in long-standing relationships of over 25 years. Some of the results that emerged from the study in regard to their personal lives were: (1) The concept of “family” was very important and respect, honesty, altruism, and hard work were values that were taught in home. (2) The recurrent pattern of parental struggle to overcome social-economic hardship was observed. (3) Gender discrimination where females were subservient to males was not detected in the homes of these participants. The findings regarding the participants' views of their role as superintendent were: (1) Participants did not seek the superintendency but were recruited to “fix” the problems of the district. (2) How and why participants were appointed had a direct correlation to the community reaction toward the participants. (3) Role modeling, not mentorship, was the method used by these participants to proceed in their role as superintendents. This study was able to provide a glimpse of the lives and the factors that contributed to the making of these Hispanic females as leaders in an urban setting.

Subject Area

School administration|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Torres, Doris, "Hispanic female superintendents: Making history as leaders of urban city districts" (2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3134452.