How Can Primary Concerns of School District Superintendents Guide School Health Efforts? (Articles)
Winnail, Scott D., Bartee, R. Todd, Journal of School Health
With increasing numbers of school children and adolescents engaging in negative health behaviors, development and implementation of effective school-based health promotion interventions is essential. (1,4) Of particular importance to school-based interventions is the coordinated approach to school health or a coordinated school health program (CSHP). (5) A coordinated school health program integrates resources within and outside of the school in order to improve the health and well-being of youth and school personnel, and to improve overall student learning outcomes. (6) With federal funding to address implementation of a coordinated school health program, as well as funding to test the efficacy of school-based health interventions in the areas of violence prevention, pregnancy prevention and abstinence promotion, and physical activity and nutrition promotion, it is essential to identify barriers to and strategies for implementing such programs to maximize effectiveness. (6,7)
Several methods exist for recruiting and working with schools and school districts, including: 1) identifying an advocate within a school and using this person as the connection with school power brokers; (8) 2) making presentations to key school or district personnel; (9) 3) clearly defining roles and responsibilities of school personnel and researchers; (10) 4) clearly defining a time table; (11) and 5) gaining administrative support for school initiatives. (12) Although no one successful method exists for recruiting and working with schools and school districts, (10) the school administrator often plays a major role in gaining institutional or school district support, (12,13) particularly in "local control" states.
Because of the key role school administrators or superintendents play in facilitating or hindering school-based research, interventions, or programs, and because involvement of school superintendents in school programs can help assure their support for such efforts, (14) it seems important to develop an understanding of the key issues that these individuals are concerned with on a daily basis. This study was conducted to better understand superintendent concerns and agendas at the local school district level. The rationale being that if those interested in promoting school health are aware of and appropriately address primary school administrator concerns, they can minimize the impact of proposed programs on the school day, and in turn, receive more support from school administrators. (10) Additionally, these individuals also may be able to more appropriately emphasize how new programs and projects will benefit the district and positively affect the school district and administrator concerns. (15)
Because of the rural, geographically isolated, and sparsely populated nature of this frontier state, the Delphi method of qualitative data collection was chosen. This method provides an effective data collection tool when used with opinion leaders to gain an understanding of major issues. (16) It also is effective in gleaning information from individuals when face-to-face meetings are impractical, and when interpersonal confrontations wish to be avoided. (16)
A modified Delphi method was used to obtain consensus on major concerns of school district superintendents. Researchers sent a recruiting letter to all 48 school district superintendents, with the first round survey and a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. The recruiting letter stated the purpose of the project, and a brief review of the Delphi technique. The recruiting letter also informed potential participants about a monetary reward given to each participant on completion of all three rounds of the survey. Three rounds of the survey were completed to gain consensus among the administrators. The project took place from January through May 2000. The study concluded with a one-page summary report and compensation sent to participants who completed all three rounds. …