February 13, 2004
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Colorado Superintendents Speak Out on Leadership Challenges
A shortage of fiscal resources, conflicting state and federal school reform mandates, and strained relationships with school boards impact the effectiveness of current superintendents, a new Colorado survey shows. These factors are contributing to high turnover and a perceived shortage of qualified candidates seeking the job, according to a new study of Colorado school superintendents just released by the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE).
Thirty percent of superintendent positions turned over this past school year, significantly higher than in previous years. Of Colorado’s 178 school districts, 53 have new district leaders this school year.
CASE Executive Director Bob Tschirki said the study reveals increasing concerns about the demands on school district leaders. “At a time when strong leadership is needed for improving our education system, we should be supporting our quality leaders instead of creating barriers to their success,” he said.
Furthermore, Tschirki said, “The habitual addition of new regulations and the corresponding paperwork is increasingly suffocating for superintendents. This is particularly true for the majority of our superintendents in rural areas where they have little or no help in these areas. The result is less time to do the things that are important to the district, particularly focus on the education of our children.”
The study looked at four areas: superintendent effectiveness, recruitment and retention, school board relations, and professional development.
The top three factors that inhibit superintendent effectiveness are lack of fiscal resources, meeting state and federal mandates, and too many demands on their time.
Better opportunities elsewhere and lack of school board support are cited as the major reasons superintendents leave their jobs.
The line between superintendent and school board responsibility is often blurred.
Superintendents need mentoring and coaching to be more effective in their jobs, especially with regard to school reform initiatives and building relationships with stakeholders.
Rural and non-rural superintendents often face different challenges, given the nature of small-town politics and the reliance of rural districts on outside assistance.
The Colorado Association of School Executives, the professional association that represents school administrators in the state, conducted the study last summer and fall. The study was funded by the Donnell-Kay Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting innovative thought on educational reform and policy in Colorado.
In response to the study findings, Tschirki said, “CASE is stepping up with professional development in key areas and through advocacy at the state level. Also we will be working in tandem with the Colorado Association of School Boards to address superintendent-school board relationship issues that emerged from the study.”
The results of the study represent the views of about 75 percent of the state’s superintendents who responded to a written survey mailed to all district chiefs last year. Four focus groups with superintendents were held to follow up on information gleaned from the surveys. Superintendents who participated in the study represented urban, suburban, and rural districts.
The final report and supporting documents are available by clicking here:
View the entire study (narrative plus appendices). (pdf format)
View just the narrative. (pdf format)
View just the appendices. (pdf format)
Or contact CASE at 303.762.8762 for a printed copy of the report.
Established in 1969, the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) is an organization of more than 2,000 school administrators committed to improving student achievement through promoting and building quality education leadership in all Colorado schools.
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