Leadership, the Black urban superintendency, and school reform in New York City

Beverly La-Forte Hall, Fordham University


This study investigated how a school district was changed by the actions of its superintendent. The philosophy, leadership style, and behavior of J. Jerome Harris were analyzed to determine his impact on a largely minority, urban school district. The manner in which he interacted with internal and external publics was examined and the study generated an understanding of Harris as a leader and reviewed specific skills and approaches he used to exercise leadership. In addition, data were collected on the significance of race as a factor in Harris' functioning as Superintendent. The research design for the study was a qualitative case study. Data were collected from a variety of sources including documents, archival records, interviews, questionnaires, and participant-observation. The results of the study showed that Harris' philosophy of education was that all children can learn and schools can teach all children. Harris employed a "top-down" leadership style in running Community District 13. The curriculum was directed from the district office. Great emphasis was placed on the reading and mathematics curricula with the specific goal being the improvement of students' scores on standardized reading and mathematics tests. In 1987, this district became one of the first predominately minority, inner-city school districts to have all its schools average above the national norm in reading. Harris was neither controlled nor intimidated by external constituents. His relationship with his district staff and principals was demanding but, at the same time, collaborative and supportive. With parents, Harris maintained a cooperative relationship. Harris' race, the fact that he is Black, did have a positive impact on his functioning as superintendent. As a Black superintendent he was able to inspire trust and serve as a role model for students. The results of the study showed that Harris had a clearly articulated mission, he was able to understand and influence the culture of Community School District 13, and his beliefs and actions resulted in great improvements for the students in the district.

Subject Area

School administration|Biographies

Recommended Citation

Hall, Beverly La-Forte, "Leadership, the Black urban superintendency, and school reform in New York City" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9109261.