Superintendent succession: Needs, selections, and changes in four New York public school districts

Stanford Eugene Wrubel, Fordham University


Investigative studies of the school district superintendency, the key management post in education, have been undertaken from various perspectives. There are many foci through which the superintendency may be studied: the nature of the position, the characteristics of the incumbents, and the matter of mobility from one incumbency to another. One means is by observing the dynamics within a school district at the time of succession. At that juncture, a board of education assesses its needs, seeks the best qualified individual, and may significantly influence the future course of the school system.^ Previous research, primarily that of Richard O. Carlson, had focused on the issue of insider versus outsider selection. While the present study also considered the matter of insiders and outsiders, it broadened the scope of the inquiry to include the career paths of the candidates. For the purposes of this project, administrators whose responsibilities included personnel, finance, or labor negotiations were categorized as management candidates. Those applicants who were assistant superintendents for instruction, district-wide supervisors of an academic area, or administrators in some aspect of the teaching/learning process, were categorized as curriculum candidates. As noted, the matter of insider and outsider candidates was also studied, which resulted in the establishment of four groups: management insiders, management outsiders, curriculum insiders, and curriculum outsiders.^ The study determined that a predictability of performance existed among newly appointed superintendents attributable to their experience as management or curriculum experts, and as insiders or outsiders. It made recommendations to candidates, school boards, and universities regarding suitable superintendent successors. Strong management rather than curriculum expertise, and administrative experience in several districts, were generally the preferred credentials for superintendent candidates. School boards should realize that by choosing outsiders instead of insiders, they are mandating change, and facing the likelihood of an increase in the administrative staff and the annual school budget. The study further recommended that schools of education recognize the importance of business expertise in superintendent candidates by increasing the number of management courses available to their students.^ Decisions made at the time of a superintendent succession may determine the path that a school district will follow for many years. Thus, the time of the leadership change may represent a significant watershed in the history of a school district. ^

Subject Area

Educational administration

Recommended Citation

Wrubel, Stanford Eugene, "Superintendent succession: Needs, selections, and changes in four New York public school districts" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9109274.