Superintendent as manager: Case studies of conflict management in several diverse New Jersey public school districts

Aaron Richard Graham, Fordham University


The purpose of the study was to develop a model of skills and practices employed by nine superintendents in New Jersey to manage conflict involving the issues: board relations, finance, personnel, reorganization, and educational programs in high, middle, and low socioeconomic school districts. Researchers have documented that conflict is a major theme of the superintendency. Five research questions were developed to sharpen and define the focus on the variables within this study. They were: (1) How do superintendents with authoritarian, consultative, democratic, and delegatory leadership styles handle conflict issues differently? (2) To what extent does management style influence how superintendents deal with conflict? (3) To what extent does socioeconomic status/district factor grouping of a school district have an influence on the behavior of the superintendent's style? (4) How do superintendent's styles handle the particular conflict issues of board relations, finance, labor relations, reorganization, and education programs similarly? (5) What common body of leadership skills is associated with conflict resolution when comparing the four styles?^ The theoretical rationale for the study was based on educational administration theory involving Vroom and Yetton's decision model, Likert and Likert's systems 1-4 participatory management model for problem solving, and Hersey and Blanchard's situational leadership theory.^ By using the case study methodology, the nine Bergen County superintendents in school districts with kindergarten through grade twelve organizations completed a questionnaire developed by the researcher. The data derived from the Leadership Style and Conflict Management Questionnaire and the follow-up interviews with the superintendents were collected, analyzed, and organized into a conflict management model of skills and practices.^ The major findings of the study demonstrated that a conflict management model required superintendents across their varied preferred styles to: (a) be masterful communicators who keep their boards informed through open communication, (b) be knowledgeable of budget, be involved in the budget process and employ a top quality business administrator, (c) serve in an advisory role for the board and staff in labor matters, (d) have the ability to organize people to study conflict issues, and (e) be able to develop alternative solutions to conflict with cost factor analyses. ^

Subject Area

Educational administration

Recommended Citation

Graham, Aaron Richard, "Superintendent as manager: Case studies of conflict management in several diverse New Jersey public school districts" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9109258.