AN ETHNOGRAPHY OF SCHOOL BOARD - SUPERINTENDENT RELATIONSHIPS (GOVERNANCE)

VINCENT T BENI, Fordham University

Abstract

Purpose of the Study. This study explores the relationship between the way a board of education exerts its legal authority and the administrative style of the superintendent of schools. As an ethnography, the study explores the similarities and differences between two types of relationships in the McCarty and Ramsey typology of school board-superintendent styles. The focus of the study is on a "controlling board-weak superintendent" and a "weaker board-powerful superintendent" as they interacted in the decision-making process.^ The paper uses an intensive, longitudinal, ethnographic microanalysis, providing more detail about board-superintendent relationships than the interview-based McCarty and Ramsey model. The study also extends the model to examine the role of the administrative staff in the decision-making process.^ Methodology. Two Northeastern suburban school districts were selected for analysis. On site research was conducted for seven months using observational and interview techniques, as well as record reading. Data collection and analyses were based on the conceptualizations of Arensberg, Kimball and Dobbert. Three areas investigated were: (1) The structure of interaction among participants. (2) The system of customary behavior. (3) The system of values.^ Conclusions. (1) The data supports the McCarty and Ramsey hypothesis that if community-wide power exists, that power is exercised over school boards and, through them, over educational administrators. (2) The data supported the McCarty and Ramsey hypothesis that a positive relationship exists between the power structure of the board, and the administrative style of the superintendent. (3) The decision maker superintendent did not work by sheer power or force, but enabled board members to interpret and manage all the multiple influences which affected both the context and consequences of their decisions. (4) An active board was not the equivalent of a powerful board, nor was a passive board equal to a powerless board. (5) The increased participation of women on boards of education contributed to board involvement in administrative detail. (6) There was no best pattern of board-superintendent relationships as the literature has proposed since the relationship is one that is inherently at odds and cannot be defined precisely. (7) The manner in which superintendents worked with their boards was reflected in the manner in which they operated with their administrative staffs. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.) ^

Subject Area

Education, Administration

Recommended Citation

BENI, VINCENT T, "AN ETHNOGRAPHY OF SCHOOL BOARD - SUPERINTENDENT RELATIONSHIPS (GOVERNANCE)" (1985). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8600073.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8600073

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