Leadership Behaviors of Superintendent/Principals in Small, Rural School Districts in Texas

Article excerpt

In this study, 206 teachers, 35 school board presidents, and 37 superintendents/principals (n = 278) were surveyed regarding their views of effective leadership behaviors demonstrated by school leaders with dual role responsibilities through serving as both a school principal and as a superintendent in small rural school districts. Data were collected through use of the Leadership Behavior Description Questionnaire Form XII and the Leadership Behavior Description Questionnaire Form XII Self. Of the 12 leadership domains assessed through use of this measure, statistically significant differences were yielded on 6 of the 12 leadership areas: Representation; Demand Reconciliation; Tolerance of Uncertainty; Persuasiveness; Initiation of Structure; and Role Assumption. Superintendents/principals reported lower scores in these areas than did teachers and/or school board presidents. Implications of these findings are discussed.

Introduction

Since the mid-1700s, the backbone of American education has been rural education. At that time, of the country's 212,000 one-room schools, ½ of American school children were enrolled. Today, nearly 1/3 of American school children attend public schools in rural communities, of which they constitute 43% of all American public schools (United States Department of Education, 2003). Since their creation, small rural school districts have been primarily a one-person operation. Historically, a small rural school district hired a schoolmaster or teacher to serve multiple roles such as teacher, principal, nurse, cook, and custodian (Hilton, 1949). Today, many rural school districts continue this practice through the superintendent/principal position. Because small school systems lack the number of positions available in larger systems, a single administrator is often given several coordinated responsibilities which would normally warrant a separate position in a larger school district (Wylie & Clark, 1991). Such administrators truly wear "many hats." They are subject to what Katz and Kahn (1978) termed "role ambiguity," wherein uncertainty about what a job should include coupled with an unwieldy range of role expectations leads to low job satisfaction and high tension (p. 190).

Small rural school districts across America are confronted with many issues. Concerns over inadequate funding and increased state and federal mandates, such as No Child Left Behind, continue to add to an already full administrative agenda. Therefore, superintendent/principals in small rural schools face the daily challenge of meeting these demands and providing effective leadership.

In the State of Texas, 44 small rural school districts operate with one district administrator, the superintendent/principal. Superintendent/principals of small rural school districts in the State of Texas, as well as in other states, are expected to be effective leaders while performing their two roles. They must complete the same number of reports and meet the same accountability standards as superintendents of larger districts while performing the dual responsibilities of both superintendent and principal. Regardless of the size of a school district, superintendent/principals are still required to complete the same reports and adhere to the accountability requirements imposed by the Texas Education Agency, the state legislature, and the United States Department of Education. Because small school districts lack the number of positions available in larger districts, a single administrator often is given several "coordinated" responsibilities which warrant a separate position in a larger school district (Wylie & Clark, 1991). Consequently, superintendent/principals truly wear "many hats" and face an enormous task of effectively performing the multiple roles and responsibilities of the dual role position. Multiple roles and responsibilities of the dual position may impede the educational leader's ability to lead effectively (Lochry, 1998). …