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This article provides an historical analysis of the origins and development of boards of education as well as superintendents of schools. It provides the reader with a better insight into the delicate nature of the relationship between superintendents of school and their boards of education.

In addition to published in the Connexions Content Commons, this manuscript is catalogued in the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) database providing a comprehensive, easy-to-use, searchable Internet-based bibliographic and full text database for education research and information for educators, researchers, and the general public. (California Association of Professors of Educational Administration/U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences Contract No. ED-04-CO-0005)

About the author

Michael Moody is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at Texas A&M, Corpus Christi.

Introduction

According to The Center for Public Education (2011), there are approximately 13,800 elected or appointed local school boards in the United States. Generally, within each of these governance units, a superintendent of schools directly serves the board of education as its chief executive officer (Konnert&Augenstein, 1990; Kowalski, 2003; Moody, 2007). Within this context, it is important to note that scholars and practitioners alike believe that one of the most important tasks of any board of education is the hiring of a superintendent of schools to assist the board in the conduct of its business, and also to direct the day to day operation of the school district (Carter&Cunningham, 1997; Cox&Malone, 2003; Hoyle, Bjork, Collier,&Glass; 2005, Moody; Norton, Webb, Dlugosh&Sybouts, 1996). Citing an extensive body of research including the Iowa School Board’s extensive Lighthouse Project (LaMonte, Delagardelle&Vander Zyl, 2007), The Center for Public Education (2011) succinctly indicated that a positive and stable relationship between boards of education and school superintendents is directly related to positive school outcomes. Conversely, “board-superintendent conflict is a factor that makes it difficult for public schools to reach our common goal of giving America’s children the best education in the world” (Goodman, Fulbright,&Zimmerman, 1997, p. 1). Unfortunately; however, “given the complex and often ambiguous nature of school governance, it is appropriate to characterize superintendent-board relations as being problematic” (Moody, p. 35).

According to Moody (2007), “[T]he topic of superintendent-board relations is not new” (p 34). In fact, the dynamic, complex, and often volatile relationship between school superintendents and their respective boards of education has proven to be a popular topic of study (Alsbury, 2003, 2008; Carter&Cunningham, 1997; Danzberger, Wirst,&Usdan; 1992; DiPaola&Stronge, 2003; Fusarelli&Petersen, 2002; Kowalski&Brunner, 2005; Lutz&Merz, 1992). The current political climate of high-stakes assessment coupled with punitive accountability measures has increased the likelihood that stress and conflict between a board of education and its superintendent of schools will continue to adversely impact school governance practices. According to Hensley and Burmeister (2008, 2009), it is incumbent upon school leaders (superintendents as well as school board members) to promote positive relationships and to develop healthy organizational cultures that serve to advance powerful, effective teaching and learning. Nevertheless, as the school reform movement has intensified, governing schools with moral purpose and integrity in a highly contentious political and social environment has become especially complex and challenging.

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Source:  OpenStax, Educational leadership and administration: teaching and program development, volume 23, 2011. OpenStax CNX. Sep 08, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11358/1.4
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