Crisis in the school superintendency: A national survey of mobility, satisfaction and career choices

Vincent Angelo Carella, Fordham University


The school superintendency is a pivotal role in education. With the sweeping changes and reform in education today, superintendents are under intense pressure to produce significant, positive results, all while exhibiting diverse skills in leadership, organization, human relations, and many areas of technical expertise. Such demands have led to a diminution of applicants for the superintendency, which is the basis of this study. Literature indicates that superintendents are both “career bound” (changing jobs relative to personal skills) and “place bound” (remaining in one system throughout their careers). Previous studies show superintendents' tenure at approximately 3 years. Using the original survey instrument SPEAR (Superintendents' Professional Expectations and Advancement Review), the researcher asked incumbent superintendents about their perceptions of the crisis in their profession as well as inquiries about career satisfaction and job mobility. To determine these perceptions, questions were asked about their personal areas of expertise, and about personal, familial, and economic concerns. With assistance from the American Association of School Administrators, the surveys were mailed to a random national sampling of approximately 3,000 superintendents, divided into three groups by district size, and showed a return rate of nearly 58%. The results clearly indicate that superintendents perceive their field to be in crisis, including concerns about recruiting new, talented leaders, as well as concerns about job turnover. Superintendents also expressed the need for recognition and rewards for the vital role they play in education. However, superintendents expressed great satisfaction and strongly believe they are making a significant difference in the lives of children. The SPEAR instrument also revealed that superintendents are a stable group, with over 30 years in education; in addition, they show a long-term commitment to the superintendency, serving in central office over 15 years, and in their present positions over 7 years. Recommendations made by the researcher after analysis of the data included: reorganization of the role, an increase in economic incentives, expansion of pension opportunities and training programs, and an increase in opportunities for women and minorities.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Carella, Vincent Angelo, "Crisis in the school superintendency: A national survey of mobility, satisfaction and career choices" (2000). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9975341.