Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, U.S.A.
It has been argued that “education is one of the most thoroughly political enterprises in American life” (Bailey, 1962; pp. viii). Nonetheless, extant literature does little to provide insights into the nature of relations between political and administrative roles and its relation to conflict in local education governance. Consequently, this study identifies where political and professional leadership and control is connected and where it is separated in the processes of urban and rural education governance. Conclusions are then drawn concerning the nature of and extent to which superintendent-board relations are conflicted and are cooperative.
School boards are significant governmental units because of their numbers, the sums of money they raise and spend, and the importance of their programs and policies. Although school boards are representative bodies, they frequently defer to the professional expertise of the superintendent and choose the “best” educational policies regardless of community preferences (Greene, 1992). Because of the conflicts between a reliance on professional expertise and concerns for electoral accountability, “school boards behave like typical schizophrenics. On the one hand, they willingly ( indeed eagerly) give power away to the experts. …On the other hand, they espouse an ideology of lay control” (Zeigler, 1975;