February 2016

Superintendents happy with jobs in face of challenging role

AASA/The School Superintendents Association recently released an update to The Study of the American Superintendent, originally released in 2010. AASA notes the study documents the demographics, backgrounds, and experiences of American school superintendents. The 2015 results include additional data on job satisfaction and the impact of gender for superintendents.
 
Most superintendents are satisfied with their career choice. About three-quarters of them would choose the same career if they had to do it over again. When it comes to career path, most reported the same trajectory: teacher, campus administrator, central administrator/assistant superintendent, and then superintendent. In smaller districts, it was more common to move directly from a campus position to the superintendent post because there are relatively few central administration positions. Many superintendents had the same job in another district.
 
The pattern of an aging superintendency continues from the 2010 study: Nearly one in three superintendent respondents planned to retire within the next five years.

Challenges of the job

Overall, superintendents believe that politics can be a stumbling block that inhibits their job performance, with board members, staff, and the community contributing. Social media was cited as another inhibitor of superintendent performance.
 
The most commonly reported problems were job stress, the time commitment required, and a lack of adequate funding. The most commonly cited reasons for leaving a job were conflict with the school board and wanting a new challenge, with additional mentions of contentious relationships, conditions of the job, or personal family dynamics.

Superintendent demographics 

This year, women made up one-quarter of respondents, except in the largest and urban districts, where there were more female respondents. Minority women were twice as common as minority men among respondents. More male superintendents reported being promoted to superintendent in their current district, while women were more likely to receive the top job by moving to another district.
 
Female superintendents tended to become superintendents later in their careers, had more years in the classroom than males, and were older than their male counterparts. A smaller proportion of female superintendents were partnered or married, while a higher proportion had been divorced, compared to males. Finally, females were less likely to have school-aged children.

For information only

This year’s survey has a smaller group of respondents—less than half of the number from the 2010 study. While the results are informational, it is a less representative sample than in the earlier study.