Date of Award

Winter 2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership

First Advisor

Randall Parker

Abstract

Remarkably few females hold the position of superintendent of schools; although, there are capable women in the educational field who are qualified and interested in obtaining the position of superintendent of schools. Researchers proposed many reasons for this disparity, including the lack of studies regarding females in the superintendency. This research study sought to determine how one African-American female entered the male dominated executive position to become superintendent of a large school district in a southern state.

The following research questions were used to determine how this African-American female constructed her understanding of her leadership role through the lenses of cultural experiences, gender, and ethnic identity: (a) How does the participant define and construct an understanding of her leadership role through the lenses of cultural experiences, gender, and ethnic identity as a school district leader?, (b) What are the benefits and advantages, as well as, the complexities and problems, faced being an African-American female school district leader?, (c) How were the encountered barriers addressed and overcome during the quest to obtain the superintendency?, (d) What leadership assumptions appear to form the basis for the leadership behaviors of a practicing African-American female superintendent?, (e) How do the expectations from the school board members and the schools' communities impact the decision making process?, and, (f) What political, educational, and demographical contexts of the schools and communities framed leadership behaviors?

The purpose of this study was to identity and describe, through a case study, how one African-American female superintendent constructed an understanding of her leadership role through the lenses cultural experiences, gender and ethnic identity. Data were collected from the participant by conducting semi-structured, in-depth participant interviews, observing the participant in a natural setting, and completing the Leadership Practices Self Inventory. These data were transcribed and coded using Qualms software. Common themes emerged through analysis of interviews, observed situations, and interpretation of data collected. Focusing on the personal experiences of one female superintendent, the five overarching themes which emerged from this phenomenological qualitative study were (a) her socialization, (b) her determined work ethic, (c) her persistence to attain the superintendency, (d) her strong religious beliefs, and (e) her concern for student achievement.

The underlying themes, revealed by this research, have implications for women considering the superintendency. The findings of this study indicated how one African-American female overcame barriers, from childhood to adulthood, to achieve the top executive position of a large school district. In her own words, a comprehensive understanding of the road one African-American female traveled to secure the superintendency was told.

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