Strategies Texas superintendents use to prevent and resolve conflicts with school boards



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The purpose of this study was to identify and describe the strategies Texas superintendents use to both prevent and resolve conflicts between the school board-superintendent leadership team and to examine the effects of gender, age, ethnicity, level of education, experience in education, tenure as a superintendent, leadership style, and type and size of school districts on the strategies used by superintendents in Texas to prevent and resolve conflicts with school boards. This study was limited to superintendents in the state of Texas during the 2007-08 school year (approximately 1,050). The survey methodology involved an electronic questionnaire that allowed this researcher to survey the entire population of public school superintendents in Texas. The data was analyzed using the Social Sciences (SPSS, 2007) Statistical Package descriptive statistics. In order to validate the data, three superintendents from the largest districts in Texas were interviewed using a semi-structured approach to questioning using the results of the electronic survey. Based on the demographic data provided by the respondents, the typical superintendent in Texas is a married, White, non-Hispanic male, age 50 – 54 who serves a rural school district with a student enrollment of 1 – 499. He has a base salary of $85,000 to $99,999 and serves under a three-year contract and holds a master’s degree and majored in education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The typical superintendent has five to nine years of both teaching experience and site-based administrative experience and one to four years of central office administrative experience. More than 70% of the responding superintendents who held more than one superintendency reported that they left their last superintendency because of an opportunity to move to a larger district or for a higher salary. The majority of Texas school superintendents described their leadership/management style as collaborative and that human resources management was their greatest area of conflict with their school board. The factor that they report most inhibits their effectiveness was inadequate financing of schools. The strategy that the of majority Texas superintendents used to prevent and resolve conflict was to discuss the policy role of the school board with board members, participate in annual team-building activities and provide leadership training for board members. There was very little correlation between the demographic factors and strategies used by superintendents to prevent and resolve conflict. Follow-up interviews with large city superintendents provided additional information regarding specific strategies superintendents use to prevent and respond to conflict. Recommendations were made for further research regarding the role of the superintendent versus the role of the school board using qualitative research methods to further explicate the relationship between leadership/management style and strategies superintendents use to prevent and resolve conflict with school boards.