This article, partially excerpted from Dr. Blane Covert’s doctoral dissertation, examines why Head of School and Superintendent tenures are decreasing.
When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, explained his reasoning when solving a crime to friend and assistant Dr. John Watson, he simply said, “Elementary” (the phrase “Elementary, my dear Watson” never actually appears in any of Doyle’s stories). What Holmes meant, of course, was that solving the crime in question was simple and easy.
Explaining why Head of School and Superintendent tenure continues to decline is also “elementary.” Specifically, lack of funding is a primary reason for shortened Head of School/Superintendent tenure. Glass et al. (2000) noted that Superintendents believed that constant financial pressure was their largest problem. In Independent Schools, where fundraising is such an important part of the Head of School’s job, the pressure to produce can be particularly intense.
On a seemingly related note, Glass and Franceschini (2007) indicated that “Considerable stress is felt by slightly more than 44% of Superintendents, and this coupled with those reporting 'very great stress' brings high stress levels to near 60%” (p. 47). The stress inherent in the work of school leaders, then, is certainly a contributing factor in resignations and early retirements.
In addition, the high visibility associated with the job of Head of School/Superintendent can also lead to shortened tenures. Glass et al. (2000) found that this visibility invites criticism from every constituency, including Board Members, parents, other administrators, and teachers. As a result, the school leader is often involved in emotionally charged debates on any number of issues. When these issues are ultimately resolved, the Head of School/Superintendent must account for his or her decisions (Raymond, 2007).
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