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An Exploration Of The Mentoring Experiences
Of African American Public School Superintendents
In New York State

Fadhilika Atiba-Weza
The Sages Colleges

Troy, New York


This descriptive quantitative study investigated the mentoring experiences of African American school superintendents. Specifically, it looked at the mentoring experiences of African Americans who served in the capacity of chief school administrators in school districts and BOCES in the State of New York. A review of the literature suggests that many professional institutions and organizations have used mentoring as a means of increasing/improving the quantity and quality of their members and prospective members. The field of education is among those which have availed itself of the benefits of mentoring. In some states, not only is the mentoring experience widely employed, it is a requirement for individuals in order for them to acquire and maintain their certification as superintendents. In the State of New York, superintendents are mentored, but there is no mentoring requirement or mandatory professional development experience for current and aspiring superintendents. In the cases in which mentoring is employed as a means of professional development for superintendents, it has proven to be effective in advancing the careers of those involved. Although the literature does not provide much evidence that African American superintendents are involved in the mentoring experience, the findings of this study suggest that the experiences of African American superintendents in New York are not consistent with much of the literature regarding the issue of the mentoring of superintendents.


For many public school educators, ascendency to the position of superintendent of schools is the capstone of their educational career. The public school superintendent is not only the chief academic officer of his/her school district; he/she is also the person who is charged with providing the leadership that is required in order for the students in the school district to receive the high quality of education that they deserve. In their meta-analysis of school leadership and the factors which most impact the quality of schools, Marzano and Waters
(2009) concluded that the quality of work of the school superintendent most significantly impacts the quality of student achievement on a district-wide basis. They further stated that, “Effective leadership at the district and school levels changes what occurs in the classrooms, and what happens in the classrooms has a direct effect on student achievement” (p.11).

The importance of the superintendency, and the multiple roles which are associated with the position, cannot be understated. In a paper presented to the West Virginia Superintendents’ Institute, Björk
(2009) stated that among other roles, the superintendent is expected to be: teacher-scholar, manager, democratic leader, applied social scientist (social and organizational justice), and communicator. In other words, the superintendent must be the instructional leader of the school district, while at the same time he/she must be responsible for the management of the affairs of the school district, while communicating the vision and goals to stakeholders and other interested and affected parties. He/she is expected to handle all of the above with grace and competence. This very important leadership position requires individuals who are well prepared to handle the rigors of the position.

(Petersen, 2002; Scott, 1980) have pointed to the challenges which superintendents face as they endeavor to perform the tasks which are associated with their position as chief executive officer (CEO) of their districts. Scott (1980) looked at the burdens which the superintendent has to bear as he/she endeavors to improve the lives of the children who are assigned to his/her school district. He reminds us that the expectations of the position are great, but that society does not always look kindly on the superintendent who fails to perform as expected. Such pressure requires individuals who are academically and psychologically prepared for success in the superintendency.

Unfortunately, for many individuals who are considered members of underrepresented (minority) groups, access and ascendency to the superintendency is most often a goal that is rarely achieved. According to Coleman, Collins,Harrison-Williams, and Sawyer
(2009), African American superintendents comprise less than three percent of the superintendents in this country. The numbers for New York State are not much better. There are 696 local school districts in the State of New York (NYSED, 2010). In addition, there are 37 Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES of New York State, 2010). Of the total 733 school districts in the state, there are 21 African American superintendents. This represents 2.86% of the total. This number is slightly lower than the 2.88% for the entire country.

The number of African American superintendents in some states is much lower than the national average, with several states having no African American superintendents. According to the National Alliance of Black School Educators
(2010), 18 states have no African American superintendents. New York State, with 21 African American superintendents, ranks 10th in the nation. This ranking has to be appreciated in the context in which the total number in the nation is less than 400 out of approximately 14,500 active superintendents.

Scholars and practitioners have expressed concern about the small number of African American superintendents, especially in suburban school districts. Shakeshaft and Jackson
(2003) questioned the absence of black superintendents in New York, and challenged the notion of the unqualified candidate. Among the responses to the concerns which are expressed about the underrepresentation of African Americans in the superintendency, especially in suburban school districts, is the oft-repeated statement that qualified candidates are not readily available to fill the vacancies which materialize. This position is promulgated by no less than the New York State Council of School Superintendents (NYSCOSS, 2009). In its Snapshot of the Superintendency, NYSCOSS (2009) states that the pool of candidates is not as strong as in the past, and that responses to postings for vacancies are lower than in previous years.

This issue is not limited to African Americans alone. Other ethnic groups and women are also underrepresented in the superintendency. In his seminal research on the condition of women superintendents, Glass
(2000) found that women accounted for approximately 14 percent of the total number of superintendents. Collier (2009) called attention the very low number of African American superintendents who accounted for one percent of the superintendents in our nation’s school systems. Hall (2001) also looked at the number of school leaders relative to the number of female classroom teachers and found that although women made up the majority of teachers, principals, and central office employees, there was a great disparity between the number of women who serve as superintendents versus the number of men. Some have characterized the superintendency as the most (white) male-dominated executive position in the country (Jacobson, 1989; Sharp, Malone, Walter, & Supley, 2000).

Christie, Jackson, and Babo
(2008) spoke to the challenges which are confronted by minority superintendents and their perspectives on issues of gender and race, as well as the difficulties which they encounter as they endeavor to gain entry into the profession. These issues are not limited to the superintendency. In the field of engineering, another male-dominated profession, Ingram, Bruning and Mikawoz (2009) found that for female engineers, mentoring and socialization were important in the nurturing of long-term career development.

(2002) study of the suburban superintendents on Long Island, New York lamented the fact that there were very few African American males in suburban school districts, and challenged the notion that qualified African American candidates were not readily available to fill the vacancies which materialize. He argued that the candidates were available, but the school districts were not inclined to employ them. He explored the impact of search consultants and their role in determining which candidates were permitted to be interviewed by Boards of Education, and how they limited access to the superintendency for those who were perceived as not being part of the established and privileged networks. Not only are the numbers of African American superintendents paltry, but other than a short lived effort in Nassau County (Kamler, 2006), there is little evidence of any concerted efforts at increasing the numbers of African Americans in the superintendency.

Who determines whether or not aspirants are ready for the superintendency, and how are the aspirants prepared to assume and gain success in the superintendency? This study looked at one of the factors which influence the quality of the school system’s leader and the manner in which he/she is prepared for the position of superintendent of schools. Specifically, it looked at one of the approaches employed among the efforts of improving the preparation and quality of aspiring and current superintendents. This is of particular importance given that many who are engaged in the process of identifying the next generation of superintendents often claim that the quality of the candidate pool is substandard. In his study of the superintendency, Jackson
(2002) expressed his concerns about the absence of African American male superintendents in suburban school districts in New York State. His study suggested that one of the reasons offered for the situation is the claim that African American candidates are not effectively prepared for the superintendency. In his study, Parker (2009) reported that several of the superintendents whom he interviewed cited the lack of mentors as one of the obstacles to access and success that are faced by African American male superintendents in New York State.

Access to, and success in, most professions is contingent upon many factors. Among those factors is the preparation of the applicants for the positions which they seek, and the continuing education which the incumbents receive during their tenure in their position. The preparation and continuing education may take many forms; included among them is that of the mentoring experience and the role of the mentor or model professional in providing access, coaching and other means of support to the aspirants and incumbents. The American school superintendency is not unlike many professions in this regard. Most professions require their members to be engaged in continuing education and other forms of professional development in order for them to retain their licenses and/or certifications. Unfortunately, this is not a requirement for school superintendents in New York. As a result, other than the need for individuals to improve themselves and the quality of their work, there is no compelling reason for incumbent superintendents to engage in professional development activities. Ironically, in the neighboring states of Massachusetts and New Jersey, superintendents of schools are required to participate in state mandated mentoring activities. Furthermore, superintendents are required to certify that the instructional staff in their school districts engages in, and receive the minimum number of hours of professional development.

The significance of the importance of the mentoring of African American superintendents is not a concession to the idea that quality African American candidates are not readily available to assume the mantle of leadership of our school districts. It is, however, recognition that when a particular sector of the population is underrepresented in a profession, there is reason to believe that the subgroup would not have the same access to the opportunities for advancement as their colleagues who are not similarly positioned.

According to the New York State Council of School Superintendents
(2009), approximately 220 of New York’s superintendents have retired in the previous three years, and nearly 300 current superintendents had fewer than four years of experience. These numbers suggest that approximately 40% of the superintendents can be classified as inexperienced. This is of particular importance, especially during a period in which the demands on the school systems and their leaders are increasing in volume and complexity. As the job becomes more demanding, superintendents, especially the less experienced among them, will need more assistance in being able to accomplish the tasks that are associated with their being successful as superintendents of schools.

This research project looked at the mentoring experiences of African American school superintendents in the State of New York. Specifically, it explored the mentoring experiences of superintendents from the perspective of those who serve or have served as mentors, and also from the perspective of those who have been mentored. As an exploratory research project, it did not make assumptions about the experiences of superintendents nor did it seek to predict any causal relationships between the experiences of the superintendents and any other factor and/or variable. It merely states the facts and explains the findings of the research.

In many fields of employment, mentoring has proven to be an effective modality of professional development. In the field of law, the new or inexperienced lawyer is often apprenticed to, or clerks for, an experienced colleague. The medical doctor is required to perform many hours of supervised practice before he/she is allowed to work without supervision. The aircraft pilot has to log a minimum number of supervised flight hours before he/she is allowed to fly solo. After acquiring his/her pilot’s license, the pilot is then required to continually upgrade his/her skills in order to retain the license.

Given the importance of the position of the school superintendent, one would reason that school leaders could benefit from similar requirements and experiences. The public school superintendent, however, is not subjected to such degrees of professional scrutiny, and the requirements are less stringent.

(2005) wrote of the need to provide effective professional development opportunities to inexperienced superintendents. This need was occasioned by what he perceived as insufficient professional opportunities which were geared to the novice superintendent. Consequently he developed an online tool which was “intended to meet the needs of new superintendents by facilitating dialogue with experienced counterparts.”(p.13).

Although Rogers’ online professional learning community never materialized, the premise of the importance of mentoring was evident in the rationale and the attempt. His notion of a dialogue with experienced counterparts is part of the essence of the mentoring experience. The aspiring or inexperienced superintendent is expected to, among other things, engage in a dialogue with his/her experienced colleague. Knight
(1993) concluded that mentoring provides an additional benefit to the mentee/protégé in that it allows access to situations where formal and traditional avenues may not be readily available. In other words, it exposes the mentee or protégé to some of the inside and privileged information to which he/she might not otherwise have access. This has tremendous importance for the African American aspiring or practicing superintendent. As a member of an underrepresented group, he/she oftentimes does not have the access that may be readily available to his/her peers.

In addition to providing the mentee and protégé with the skills and tools of the trade, it is not uncommon for the mentor to assume the role of sponsor and/or advocate for the aspiring administrator. In this regard, as shown by Ceniga
(2008), the mentor assists the protégé or mentee to overcome the infrastructural barriers by mentoring, developing sponsors, professional support and the superintendent skills needed to be successful.

Background of the Problem

In its Snapshot of the Superintendency, the New York State Council of School Superintendents
(NYSCOSS) expressed its concern that a large number of New York State superintendents had less than four years experience in the position of Superintendent of Schools, and that many incumbents were starting their careers in the superintendency at later stages in life than in earlier years (NYSCOSS, 2009). Several authors, Wyatt (2010), Rogers (2005) and Ellerbee (2002), among others have suggested that quality professional development is the best antidote to the problem of meeting the needs of the superintendent. Rogers (2005) stated that the literature of adult learning indicates that the skills which are necessary for the success of current and aspiring superintendents may best be learned by the linking of novices and veterans in communities of practice in which the learning is directly related to the learners’ immediate problems. In other words, for the superintendency, one would posit that mentoring would be a viable and effective modality of instruction for the professional development of superintendents; yet as Ellerbee (2002), Jackson (2002) and Parker (2009) have stated, African American superintendents are the least likely beneficiaries of mentoring.

Among the reasons for this is the fact that in situations in which there are no requirements for mentoring, those who choose to mentor more than likely would mentor those with whom they are familiar and/or are part of the same social networks. The absence of large numbers of African American school superintendents exacerbates that situation. Knight
(1993), in her study of the mentoring relationships of school superintendents in Oklahoma, found that superintendents who mentor, tend to mentor along gender lines. In other words, men would mentor men, and women would mentor women. It could be expected, therefore, that similar patterns would exist for ethnicity. Given that African Americans are disproportionately underrepresented in the superintendency, one would assume that there is an insufficient number of mentors for those current and aspiring superintendents who may wish to be mentored. This, however, is offset by the small number of incumbents, thus resulting in what would appear to be sufficient mentors for potential mentees/protégés.

Carter and Cunningham
(1997) subtitled their study of the superintendency, “Leading in the Age of Pressure” not only as an acknowledgement of the importance of the position, but also as a recognition of the critical nature of the job. They tell us that the role of the superintendent has significantly changed since the origin of the public school superintendent in the 1800’s, and that the incumbent is no longer a manager of agencies, but a leader of people and programs. One would assume that such a critical position would require individuals who are properly and effectively prepared for the tasks which would confront them as they endeavor to lead our school systems. Unfortunately, superintendents for the most part, have to fend for themselves as there are few requirements for professional development for school superintendents. Superintendents are required to participate in many of the same educational preparation programs as are required for most public school administrative positions, but upon assumption of the position of Superintendent of Schools, there is no requirement for professional development and/or continuing education, as are required of teachers and leaders in other professions.

According to the New York State Education Department
(2009), all teachers and first year building administrators must receive mentoring services. The NYSED’s website states that, “The purpose of the mentoring requirement is to provide beginning educators in teaching or school building leadership service with support in order to gain skillfulness and more easily make the transition to one’s first professional experience under an Initial certificate”.

This requirement does not extend to superintendents. Although the superintendent is the chief executive officer of the school district, and the one who is held accountable for the affairs of the school district, there is no evidence that tremendous importance is placed on the manner in which he/she is prepared, and there are no requirements for ensuring that he/she engages in any sort of professional development upon assuming the position.

Mentoring: A Definition

The term mentor first appeared in Greek mythology to identify the son of Alcumus and teacher to Telemachus, son of Odysseus, King of the Greeks. According to the legend, Mentor was supposed to have had a great influence on the development of Telemachus, the prince and future king
(Milam, Miller and Frederickson, 2009). Merriam Webster’s online dictionary provides us with the following definition of mentor:

1 - a: a friend of Odysseus entrusted with the education of Odysseus' son, Telemachus
2 - a: a trusted counselor or guide; b: tutor, coach

George and Neale (2006) state that “mentoring is an interaction between a more experienced person and a less experienced person” (p.3). In addition, it provides guidance that motivates the mentored person to take action. It is, however, more than just an interaction between two or more individuals; it is a special type of relationship. It is one in which either the mentor or the individual who is being mentored seeks the other so that a relationship may be developed whereby the mentee or protégé learns from the mentor. Donaldson, Ensher, & Grant-Vallone (2000) report that traditionally we view mentoring as a didactic, face-to-face, long-term relationship between a supervisory adult and a novice student that fosters the mentee’s professional, academic or personal development. This relationship is not limited to supervisor and student. It can involve relationships between and/or among two or more individuals in which the less experienced individuals learn from the experience and expertise of the more experienced and more competent individuals.

(Busch, 1985) have posited that mentoring is not just beneficial to the protégé or mentee, but rather it is a two-way process in which both the mentor and the mentee benefit. Roberts (2000) reported that that the concept of mentoring is not quite well defined and that there is a lack of consensus regarding its meaning. At various times, all of the terms which we use to describe any instructional or professional development activity have been used to identify the mentoring process. Accordingly, he stated that the contingent attributes of the mentoring phenomenon appear as coaching, sponsoring, role modeling, assessing, and an informal process.

According to Wareing
(2000), the mentor's role is to prompt the mentee to do a process of reflection and effective self-assessment, followed by professional growth, goal setting and planning. In addition, the mentor guides, suggests, teaches, challenges, and coaches using the power of experience, expertise, and caring to influence the mentee's actions and growth. Superintendents are not to be exempt from this process, yet there are few structured programs that provide mentorships for aspiring and incumbent superintendents. Parker (2009) cited a lack of mentors as one of the obstacles to access to, and success in, the superintendency as reported by African American male superintendents in New York State. In his study of the mentoring experiences of school superintendents in Texas, McNulty (2002) was able to identify some of the areas in which first year superintendents felt the need for assistance and professional development. Those areas most often cited were knowledge and assistance with school finance, development of effective relationships with groups that have expectations of the superintendent while also improving student achievement, and working within the politics of the position.

Importance of Mentoring

It is not uncommon for individuals to comment that they were confident they were qualified for advertised positions, but for any number of reasons, they were not afforded the opportunity to demonstrate their readiness and suitability for these positions. Knight
(1993) tells us that among other things, the mentoring experience enables the mentee to bridge the gap between qualification and opportunity. This benefit of mentoring addresses Jackson’s (2002) concern that many qualified candidates oftentimes do not have the opportunity to compete on an equal footing with their colleagues for the advertised positions.

Mentees /protégés benefit from the opportunity to observe veteran superintendents at work and to learn from their experiences. The first-year or inexperienced superintendent is also allowed the opportunity to interact with peers who are in similar situations and thus gain the opportunity for bonding and developing lasting relationships. Beem
(2007) reports on the experiences gained by a rookie superintendent who participated in the Massachusetts Superintendents Association’s mentoring program, and the successful implementation of superintendent mentoring programs in other states. In a study of African American women superintendents, Collier (2009) reported that African American women comprise less than one percent of the total number of superintendents in the country. Of equal importance was the finding that for new superintendents, mentoring was critical to their success.

(1987) found that women who became superintendents were career-oriented individuals who had both relational and career mentors. In other words, the mentor worked with the mentees on issues related to their careers, in addition to addressing issues of empathy, engagement, authenticity, and empowerment. While not specific to the superintendency, these issues were important to their preparation and the success of their careers.

Leaders of commerce and industry routinely avail themselves of the benefits of mentoring. The Birmingham Post
(2010) reported on a program that provided mentors to individuals so that they may gain access to the various professional opportunities that are available in the business community. The major benefit of this program was not merely skill development, but the provision of access to individuals who otherwise may not have had such access.

Another group that has demonstrated the benefits of mentoring is academic faculty. Spector, Mann, Anderson, Narayan, and McGregor
(2010) report on the successes of a group of faculty and program directors in creating a peer mentoring program. It is not unreasonable for us to assume that the aspiring and new superintendent would benefit from the mentoring experience if they were able to avail themselves of the opportunities to be mentored by their experienced and competent colleagues. Hall and Sandler (1989) have demonstrated that women in higher education have particularly benefitted from the mentoring experience. An interesting twist in this area is the work of Wise and Leon (2009), who as university professors, spend time working in school districts where they coach and mentor principals and superintendents. They reported that they noticed that their time spent working in the school districts positively impacted their teaching at the college level.

Mentoring and the Superintendency

As much as it would appear that mentoring is a valuable and effective modality of professional development and career advancement, the literature suggests that it is not widely employed in the superintendency, especially in the State of New York. Studies indicate that other professions make greater use of mentoring than does the school superintendency. Kranz
(2010) tells us that approximately 20% of companies in the United States planned to adopt and/or implement mentoring programs during 2010. Moen and Allgood (2009) found that executive coaching (mentoring) had significant positive effects on the self-efficacy of participants in leadership development programs. It would seem to reason that the same would apply to superintendents and aspiring school leaders. The literature suggests that although the benefits of mentoring are well established, school leaders have not embraced the practice to the degree that it is embraced by their colleagues in other fields.

In a study of the mentoring experiences of African American school administrators, Sloan
(2008) concluded that mentoring was critical to career satisfaction in the early years of the administrators. She also noted that the mentoring which occurred, however, was informal and not particularly structured. Rogers’ (2005) call for an online community of learners is one of many responses to the absence of organized mentoring and professional development programs for new superintendents.

The New York State Council of School Superintendents
(NYSCOSS, 2009-a) reported that approximately 40% of the State’s superintendents retired during the past five years. They also reported that during that same period, approximately 68% of the respondents to the survey were in their first superintendency. The above suggests that there are a significant number of inexperienced superintendents in New York State. Given that much of the research (Marzano and Waters, 2009; Rallis, 1988) suggests that school leadership is of critical importance to the success of schools, it is reasonable to assume that the quality of the school districts would benefit from programs that are geared towards improving the leadership and administrative skills of the superintendents. To this end, NYSCOSS has embarked on a program to provide professional development for new and aspiring superintendents (NYSCOSS, 2009-b). In addition, the former Executive Director of the organization, Thomas Rogers, proposed an online mentoring program for member superintendents (Rogers, 2003).

Today, coaching and mentoring are common and acceptable as modes of professional development. In the fields of law and medicine, one is required to engage in mandatory professional development. Unfortunately, superintendents are not required to do so, thus it is up to the individual superintendent to determine whether or not he/she wishes to engage in activities which would lead to the improvement of his/her competencies. This condition has many implications, not least among them that the professional development of the superintendent would be uneven.

In a study of the mentoring experiences of school leaders in Texas, Schneider
(1991) found that gender was more critical than race and ethnicity. Women were mentored less, and in most cases, were mentored by men rather than by women. In Parker’s study (2009), the male superintendents indicated that they were not sufficiently mentored. Given the small number of African American superintendents in New York, it is hoped that an equal number of women will be interviewed, thus allowing us to determine if the experiences of New York superintendents mirror those of the Texas school administrators. Although not much seems to be done in terms of mentoring superintendents in New York State, it does not mean that superintendents are not being mentored. McNulty (2002) has shown that in Texas, superintendents are fortunate to have been the recipients of a quality mentoring program. Looking at the experiences of first-year superintendents in Texas public schools, the author found that the mentors actively and frequently initiated contact with the new superintendents; the mentors and the mentees engaged in a free exchange of ideas such that the mentees developed tremendous comfort in working with their mentors; the mentees were able to identify the areas in which they felt deficient, thus enabling the mentors to focus their efforts on assisting with the improvement of those areas.

Value/Importance of Mentoring for Advancement

(2000) states that mentoring plays a critical role in strategies that are being employed to improve the performance of professionals. One would expect, therefore, that superintendents of schools would benefit from this approach to professional development. Yet Ellerbee (2002) and others conclude that African American male superintendents in New York State indicated that the lack of mentors was a liability as they prepared for and accessed the superintendency.

(2006) demonstrates the ways in which the mentor advances the career of the protégé. By advocating for the protégé, the mentor opens doors that otherwise might have been closed. In addition, he/she creates vehicles that create exposure and visibility for the protégé, thus introducing him/her to those who have to make the decisions which potentially impact the career of the mentee. It is also not uncommon for the mentor to shield and protect the mentee from situations and/or individuals that may be injurious to his/her career aspirations. This is consistent with Knight’s (1993) view that the mentor opens doors and provides access to those who would not ordinarily have such access.

As structured and rigid as the United Sates military would seem, the U.S. Army has recognized the benefits of mentoring. According to Cox
(2009), the Army Leadership Regulation identifies mentoring as one of the ways in which Army leaders are to be developed. He cites many examples in which generals were mentored, who in turn, mentored others.

Kay and Wallace
(2010) conducted a study of mentoring in the legal profession. They found that not only was mentoring beneficial, but the lawyers who had multiple mentors seemed to have performed better than those with single mentors.

Gender and ethnicity are often cited as two of the factors which impact the chances of individuals attaining the superintendency. Blanchard
(2009) in her study of factors impacting the advancement of female leaders to the superintendency refers to the superintendency as a critical and important position, and that access is contingent upon a multiplicity of factors, mentoring being one of them. This is particularly important for groups which have historically been underrepresented in the profession.

(2003) and Hall (2001) among others, propose that mentoring is an effective strategy for addressing the low percentage of women school leaders. It is not enough that women are mentored, Hall (2001) cautions. She recommends that for institutions and organizations to pay special attention to the nature of the mentoring activities so that the protégés are sure to gain the desired outcome. In her study of the role of mentoring in the career advancement of female school principals in Toronto, Edwards (1995) concluded that mentoring positively impacted the promotion of women administrators to positions which normally lead to the position of Superintendent of Schools. According to January (2006), African American women who have served as superintendents found that the mentoring experience was rewarding and important in their careers as they attained the superintendency. In a study of the mentoring relationships of women superintendents in California, Lasher (1986) found that although mentoring was beneficial to women who wanted to become superintendent, most of those who were mentored, were mentored by men. A major reason for the last finding was the fact the most of the superintendents in the state were men, thus, it would be logical that most of the mentoring which occurred was performed by men. She recommended that those women who were superintendents ought to serve as mentors in order to further contribute to addressing the needs of their colleagues.

Another benefit of the mentoring experience is the role model effect. Booth and Perry
(1995) found that there is the tendency for mentors to work with individuals who share similar characteristics with them, thus men tend to mentor men and women to mentor women. This is not exclusive, but it appears that mentoring tends to occur more along gender lines. They also found that the presence of role models have a great impact on the ability of women to move into senior administrative positions. They claim that the mentor as a positive role model also functions as a sponsor for those who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to gain entry into the positions (Knight, 2003). Given that there are more men in the superintendency than women, it would tend to reason, therefore, that men are more likely to be mentored than women. The same can apply for the ethnic factor.

Although it may be logical to assume that the mentee/protégé benefits from the mentoring experience, it is not unexpected for the mentor to also benefit from the experience. In his study of professors of graduate education, Busch
(1985) found that those who served as mentors reported that the mentoring experience was as important to them as it was to the mentees/protégés. Consistent with the belief that the teacher learns as he/she teaches, this has implications for public school system leaders in that it would provide incentives for experienced superintendents to be engaged in the mentoring process.

Certain conditions must be present in order for the mentoring to be effective. Anderson and Shannon
(1988) state that strong mentoring programs must include, among other things, clearly defined rules about the relationship between the mentor and the mentee as well as the activities in which they would be engaged. What are these rules? And how do we ensure that they are followed? Given that mentoring is often a voluntary relationship, one would expect that the participants -- mentor and mentee -- are individuals who are comfortable with each other, and that the choice to work with each other was based on a set of expectations which are consistent with the rules of mentoring.

Many areas within the field of education have recognized and embraced the value of mentoring for advancement and professional development. Cangro
(2009) tells us that mentoring is employed as a means by which music educators learn from each other, and thus become better educators. Similarly, nursing educators are employing mentoring as a critical component of their education and training. According to McCloughen, O'Brien, and Jackson (2009), by creating a mentoring program for emerging leaders, professionals in the field of nursing education in Eastern Australia were able to determine that the mentors were able to make significant positive impacts on the careers of their mentees. One would venture to assume that the same could be said about mentoring for educational leaders. In a study of superintendents’ perceptions of the items which influenced their tenure as superintendents, (Knight, 1993) it was found that mentoring and networking were among the variables that were widely reported as being of significant importance.

Mentoring and Diversity

Issues of ethnic and gender diversity impact the superintendency nationally and locally. The latest Snapshot
(2009) of the New York State Council of School Superintendents, (Coleman, et al., 2009), among others, have spoken to the lack of diversity or insufficient diversity in the superintendency. Glass (2000), in his study of the superintendency, inquired about the absence of women superintendents. He showed that although the majority of public school educators are women, the overwhelming majority of superintendents are men. In addition, although it has been established that mentoring is an effective strategy for advancing the careers of members of underrepresented groups, it is not sufficiently employed (Blanchard, 2009; Parker, 2009; Guptill, 2003; Ellerbee, 2002).

(2003) speaks to the untapped potential that women possess and the importance of them becoming leaders of school systems. Among the strategies which she identifies for addressing this deficit is the support which is provided to women upon their assumption of the superintendency. The issues which the subjects mention as being critical and important are those which are effectively addressed as part of the mentoring process. In their study of mentorship experiences of school superintendents in Manitoba, Wallin and Crippen (2008) found that male superintendents were mentored at twice the rate of female superintendents. They also found that although men and women mentored each other, the rate at which women were mentored by men, and vice versa, was much lower than the rate at which men mentored each other. These findings are consistent with the positions articulated by other researchers (Blanchard, 2009; Guptill, 2003; Ellerbee, 2002) that mentoring and collegial support are among the factors which lead to access and success in the superintendency. It further illustrates the importance of mentoring for diversity in that individuals seem more likely to mentor those who are most like themselves, thus suggesting that African American superintendents and aspiring superintendents would be among those least likely to be mentored.

According to Management Mentors, Inc.
(2006) mentoring has the power to influence diversity in the workplace. They suggest that for agencies and organizations which are interested in fostering and improving diversity, formal mentoring works better that informal mentoring. In addition they encourage the organizations to identify and pair the mentors with the protégés, instead of allowing them to engage in self- selection. The reason being that, according Knight (1993) and others, most individuals who are involved in mentoring tend to connect with and seek out people who are similar to themselves, thus defeating the purpose of the mentoring initiative.

The field of athletics is an area in which mentoring has been effective in addressing issues of diversity. Avery, Tonidandel, and Phillips 
(2008) report that in a survey of head coaches in the women’s division of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), it was determined that the individuals who were mentored by white males reported having received more career mentoring than the coaches who were not of the same sex. One must be reminded that many of the head coaches in the women’s division of the NCAA are male; thus, more male coaches were available to mentor the protégés. The work by Avery, et al. has important implications for the superintendency given that most of the superintendents are white males, and thus, one would surmise that if most of the mentoring is performed in a sex- similar context then efforts are to be made in order to ensure that women and ethnic minorities are the recipients of this mentoring experience.

In their study of the mentoring of female administrators in school districts which were led by female and male superintendents, Booth and Perry
(1995) reported that the respondents did not perceive any difference in the way in which they were mentored. This suggests that it may not necessarily be who mentors whom, but the fact that individuals are afforded the opportunity to be mentored. According to Collins’ (1998) study of 14 school districts in the Metro Atlanta area of Georgia, 15 of the 94 high schools were led by female principals. Given that most of the superintendents are male, and that the secondary school principalship is one of the most common paths through which one becomes a superintendent, the attention to the preparation and professional development of female administrators becomes that much more critical.

(2005), researched the career paths of superintendents in Texas and concluded that the most common career path was for the secondary teacher to become a secondary administrator (most often Assistant Principal then Principal) before moving to the Central Office as either an Assistant Superintendent or Superintendent. This gives credence to Collins’ (1998) contention of the importance of addressing the professional needs of female administrators as part of the preparation for the superintendency.

(2009) found that mentoring was critical to the success of African American female superintendents and the race or ethnicity of the mentor was not important. More critical was whether or not the individual was mentored.

Potential Pitfalls of Mentoring

Not unlike other personal and social relationships, the success or failure of the mentoring process hinges on several factors, not least among them is the quality of the relationship between the participants. There are times when the mentoring relationship is not of the quality that is desired by, or expected of, both parties. Eby, McManus, Simon, and Russell
(2000) remind us that mentoring is an intense interpersonal relationship and that unpleasant incidents are a common and often neglected aspect of relationships.

Among the negative aspects of mentoring is what is known as the “crown prince” syndrome. In such cases, the mentee or protégé is perceived by his/her peers as having been identified by the leadership of the organization as the next leader or chosen one. This often leads to resentment from, and possible sabotage by, those who feel that they were overlooked. Jensen
(2000) cautions organizations and mentors of the importance of avoiding this problem, through careful selection, and program development. Deer, Jones, and Toomey (1988) caution of the need to manage high potential employees. If programs and structures are not in place to address the potential consequences of the chosen prince syndrome, the benefits of the mentoring program will be eroded.

(1991) cites several challenges which are faced by organizations which endeavor to develop and implement mentoring programs. Among them is the failure of cross-race/cross-gender mentor-mentee relationships due to personal and organizational barriers. This challenge is of particular importance given the small number of African American superintendents in New York State.

(1992) cautions that when mentoring is forced or required, the potential exists for the development of contrived or inauthentic collegially, thus leading to the undermining of the process.

Other challenges which face those who seek to mentor or to be mentored are issues of trust and confidentiality. The protégé has to be comfortable that the mentor does not betray the trust that is placed in him/her. Furthermore, the mentor and/or the protégé may place unrealistic expectations on each other and on the mentoring experience. One or both may expect too much, and thus create undue stress. In addition to the above, in cases in which the protégé is from an underrepresented group, the chances of mismatch between the mentor and the protégé may increase.

Another problem of the mentoring experience is that of favoritism. Tenner
(2004), addresses this issue by examining the work of British scholar, Sir John Plumb, and his relationship with his former students and colleagues. It is not uncommon for individuals and institutions to report that the mentor makes unfair demands on them as he/she endeavors to advance the cause and career of his/her protégé. It is also important for the mentor to guard against the perception that he/she is demonstrating favoritism to the mentee/protégé.

If the individuals who choose to engage in the mentoring experience are not equipped to perform Wareing
(2000) states, then they may do more harm than good. Not only should they possess the experience and technical skills which are necessary in order for them to be effective, but they ought to possess the ethical component that ensures that the protégé’s interest is paramount to the relationship and experience.

The United States Army once embraced mentoring as a leadership development mechanism. They later concluded that the practice of mentoring was contradictory and inconsistent to its doctrine. Although the United States Army Leadership Regulation identifies mentoring as a positive activity, Cox
(2009) reports that some in the Army felt that the sponsorship aspect of mentorship, where a mentor seeks to influence the career path of his protégé and to help the protégé obtain desirable assignments, seems to undermine Army values. This could apply to other fields as well, in that by sponsoring an individual, the mentor may do so at the expense of other potential and desiring candidates. Nevertheless, most scholars and practitioners suggest that the benefits of mentoring greatly outweigh its negative aspects.

Professional Positioning and Socialization
of African American Superintendents

(2003) studied the role of professional positioning and professional socialization in the career path of African American female superintendents. She concluded that among the reasons for the low number of African American women in the superintendency was that African American women educators are among those who are most likely not placed in professional paths that normally lead to the superintendency. Glass, (2000) and Shakeshaft, (1987) among others, have pointed out that the career paths for the superintendency have been dominated by the positions in which males (white) have been most present -- secondary school principal, head coach, etc.

According to Celestin
(2003) professional socialization is the process by which individuals are provided opportunities to be mentored, engage in networking and other activities that may assist in their upward mobility within their organization. It would appear that this would be an effective strategy for the preparation of members of underrepresented groups, as they would most likely be in need of its benefits, were they to avail themselves of the opportunities which this provides.

In her study of the mentoring experiences of female superintendents in Pennsylvania, Cornelious
(2002) found that the protégés valued early role modeling and situational mentoring. In other words, the protégés felt that they benefited most when their mentors provided guidance about specific challenges. They also reported that although close professional relationships developed in the cases in which there were cross-gender mentoring relationships, close friendships did not develop. One may posit that similarities would exist in cases of cross-cultural and cross-ethnic mentoring experiences. It is important to note, however, that the absence of a close friendship did not diminish the quality of the mentoring experience and the resultant benefits.

Conceptual Framework

There are 696 public school districts in New York State. In addition, there are 37 Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, each of which is led by a superintendent. There are 21 African American superintendents or 2.86% of the total number of superintendents in New York State. As part of the response to the claim that African American aspiring superintendents are not properly prepared for the superintendency, this study endeavored to learn whether or not the African American superintendents were mentored prior to, and/or after, having attained the superintendency; whether or not they mentored any aspiring and/or inexperienced superintendents; and if so, who were mentored by whom, and the context in which the mentoring occurred. Given the complexity and demands of the position of the school superintendent, and the rigors that are associated with the position, it leads to reason that the quality of preparation of the incumbents, and the support which they receive would factor into their effectiveness.
According to Medland and Steinhauer 
(2009), leadership has emerged as the necessary ingredient for organizational success. Although most organizations have comprehensive training curricula that serve as an important part of the foundation for leadership development, new leaders often struggle with navigating the complex landscape of their organizations. Whether managers have been promoted from within or are new to the facility, it is apparent that organizations need to create bridges to leadership success. Executive coaching (mentoring) is identified by Medland and Steinhauer as one of the mechanisms that have proven to be effective bridges to organizational leadership success. They note its long tradition in the business sector and its relevance in the academic community. The school superintendent would most likely benefit from this modality, as have members of the business sector and other sectors of the academic community.

Marzano and Waters
(2009) study of the impact of school leadership demonstrates that, apart from the impact of the teacher in the classroom, the superintendent has the greatest singular impact on the quality of schools in his/her school district. It tends to reason then, that the preparation of the superintendent and the support which he/she receives would be vital components of the ability of the school system leader’s effectiveness. Speck (1996) reports that among the factors which motivate adult learners is the need to connect the professional development activities to the tasks which are associated with their work. This is consistent with the mentoring relationship in which the protégé learns from someone who has the practical experiences that are related to the work in which the protégé is involved or is pursuing. The experiences of the mentor, and those who are mentored, inform this research project as we explore the relationships between the two groups of public school superintendents in New York State.

Research Questions

This research project explored the mentoring experiences and relationships of African American public school superintendents in the State of New York. Specifically, it looked at the following:

  • Were African American superintendents mentored prior to having assumed the superintendency?

  • Have African American superintendents mentored aspiring and/or inexperienced superintendents?

  • Were gender and race determinants regarding who mentored whom?

  • Did the mentees benefit from the mentoring experiences?

  • Are there correlations between the rate at which superintendents mentored and the rate which they were mentored?

  • Were there any dysfunctional experiences during the mentoring processes?

Significance of the Study

This study has significance for the field in that it provides researchers, aspiring and current superintendents, as well as policy makers, with a perspective on one of the aspects of the preparation of superintendents. It also informs the literature and practice of an element of the relationship which exists among some sectors of the superintendents in New York State.
Researchers have spoken to the importance of the impact of mentoring on the career advancement of aspiring superintendents. Ellerbee
(2002) found that the lack of mentoring experiences was among the reasons why many African American administrators in California did not pursue or ascend to the superintendency. This finding is consistent with Parker’s (2009) finding that African American male superintendents in New York State would have been better prepared and more successful if they were mentored during the earlier part of their careers. Furthermore, it addresses a concern of Boards of Education, policy makers, search consultants, and aspiring superintendents regarding the availability and preparation of aspiring African American superintendents.

Scope and Limitations

This research project looked at African American superintendents in the State of New York. There are 696 school districts and 37 Boards of Cooperative Educational Services in New York State, of which only 21 superintendents are African American. When one factors those who no longer work as superintendents in New York State, this number increases to approximately 75. The aggregate of which provides a sufficiently large population to inform this quantitative study. There are, however, a few limitations to the study:

  • The study is limited to New York State. Studies conducted elsewhere may reveal different outcomes. In the state of New Jersey for example, mentoring is required of all new superintendents. Thus, one would posit that the results of a similar study would be significantly different.

  • The population for this study is limited to African Americans who have served as superintendents in the State of New York. Although there may be similar relations and experiences among and between other superintendents, this study looked at those relationships and experiences as they relate to African American superintendents.
  • The researcher is a member of the population that was studied in the research project.

Summary of Findings

A review of the literature suggested that although mentoring was acknowledged as an effective modality for training and professional development, superintendents have not been afforded the opportunity to avail themselves of the opportunity to engage in mentoring to the degree that their colleagues in other professions do. African American and women superintendents and aspiring superintendents appeared to have fewer opportunities for mentoring than others.

The results of this research project belie the premise that African American superintendents in New York State are not mentored. Seventy-three percent of the respondents reported that they engaged in some sort of mentoring prior to having assumed the superintendency, and 90% reported that they have mentored aspiring and first year superintendents. When one considers that the mentoring of new superintendents is not a requirement in New York, these findings are very encouraging.

Although they comprise a very small percentage of the population, African American superintendents are as well prepared for the position as is any other group. All of the members of the research group possessed the minimum qualifications for the position, and a majority of them had earned a doctoral degree. In addition, most of them (81%) had earned significant administrative experience prior to assuming the superintendency.

Although they comprise a significant minority of the superintendents, African American superintendents have been able to avail themselves of the opportunity to be mentored, and they in turn, have mentored others. The mentoring does not appear to be the result of any requirements or institutional initiatives. For the most part, the respondents sought out their mentors for assistance.

The following are the specific findings of each research question:

  • Were African American superintendents mentored prior to having assumed the superintendency?

  • The findings suggest that African American superintendents in New York State have been mentored more frequently than the literature and previous research have suggested.

  • Seventy-three percent of the respondents reported that they were mentored prior to having attained the superintendency.

  • Have African American superintendents mentored aspiring and/or inexperienced superintendents?

  • Ninety percent of the respondents stated that they mentored others during the time that they worked as superintendents. The data show that those individuals who were mentored were more likely to mentor others. Seventy-three percent of the respondents stated that they were mentored prior to having assumed the superintendency. Eighty-nine percent of this group or 65% of the total respondents stated that they mentored others.

  • Were gender and race determinants regarding who mentored whom?

  • When asked of the ethnicity of their mentors, 61% of those who were mentored responded that their mentors were white and 39% responded that their mentors were African American. Of this group, men mentored at twice the rate of women.

  • When asked to report on their experiences as mentors, men were apt to mentor women as much as they mentored other men. Thirty-five percent of the male respondents reported that they mentored both men and women. Another 16% of the men reported that they only mentored men, while four percent reported that they mentored women, exclusively. The numbers for female mentors were higher than they were for female mentees, but still lower than their male counterparts. Fourteen percent of the female mentors reported that they mentored both men and women, with 10% mentoring men only, and an additional six percent mentoring women, exclusively.

  • Did the mentees benefit from the mentoring experiences?

  • When asked if mentoring made a difference in their careers, 87% of respondents reported that it did. Thirteen percent stated that mentoring made no differences in their careers. The high number of positive responses is consistent with the basic premise of mentoring as used for professional development in that it is a contributing factor in the career satisfaction of the participants.

  • Fifty percent of the respondents reported that their mentors assisted them in securing the position of superintendent.

  • Are there correlations between the rate at which superintendents mentored and the rate at which they were mentored?

  • An analysis of the data shows that of 90% of the respondents mentored others and 73% were mentored. Sixty-five percent of the respondents reported that they were mentored and that they also mentored others.

  • Twenty-five percent reported that although they were not mentored prior to assuming the superintendency, they mentored others.

  • Two percent of the respondents reported that they were not mentored, and they did not mentor others.

  • Were there any dysfunctional experiences during the mentoring processes?

  • In response to the questions which seek to determine whether the respondents had any negative mentoring experiences, a majority of the respondents (77%) indicated that they had no negative mentoring experiences.

  • Seventeen percent responded that they had negative mentoring experiences, with six percent providing no response. This statistic gives credence to the argument of several researchers that mentoring is often a positive experience for the mentor as well as the mentee.


The findings of the research project belied the belief that African Americans are not mentored prior to assuming the position of superintendent of schools. Several authors and researchers
(Knight, 1993; Ellerbee, 2002; Jackson, 2002; Rogers, 2003; Parker, 2009) have made the case for the mentoring of school superintendents. Some among them (Ellerbee, 2002; Parker, 2009) have suggested that the African American superintendent has missed out on the opportunity to be mentored.

The results of this project indicate that the majority of African American superintendents in New York State have been engaged in some form of mentoring, and that most of them have reported that the experiences have been positive. It is the opinion of this researcher that this study will help to dispel the myth of the underprepared African American superintendent and the underprepared aspiring superintendent.

The first research question sought to determine whether or not African American superintendents were mentored prior to having assumed the superintendency. The responses to the survey questions which are associated with this research question indicated that African American superintendents are mentored prior to having assumed the superintendency.

The second research question sought to determine whether or not African American superintendents mentored aspiring and/or inexperienced superintendents. The responses to the survey questions which are associated with this research question indicated that African American superintendents have mentored aspiring and/or inexperienced superintendents.

The third research question sought to learn whether gender and race were factors in the mentoring experiences and relationships of African American superintendents. Several researchers
(Knight, 1993; Booth and Perry; 1995; Schneider, 1991, among others) have suggested that race and gender are determinants of the mentoring experience because individuals tend to mentor those with whom they share characteristics. Collier (2009) on the other hand, suggests that race and gender are not factors in determining who mentors whom.

The responses to the survey questions which are associated with the third research question suggest that race and gender were not determinant factors regarding the mentoring of African American Superintendents in the State of New York. The data showed that males mentored at twice the rate of females, but they mentored females and much as they mentored males. More respondents were mentored by white mentors than they were mentored by other African Americans, but when one considers that African Americans comprise less than three percent of the number of superintendents in the state, the differences do not suggest that race was a determinant.

The fourth research question endeavored to determine if the mentees benefited from the mentoring experiences. Specifically, this research question sought to determine whether the mentors engaged in specific activities which materially benefitted the mentees.

An analysis of the data indicates that the respondents engaged in activities that provided material benefits to those whom they mentored. In addition, they also felt that their mentors did the same for them. In their roles as mentors and mentees, the superintendents were engaged in activities which contributed to, and resulted in the acquisition of specific skills, knowledge, and in some cases employment.

The fifth research question sought to determine if there were any correlations between the rate at which superintendents mentored and the rate at which they were mentored. Folklore speaks to the maxim of one good turn deserving another, and that we ought to do unto others as we expect of them. With this in mind, the research asked the participants to respond to questions which sort to elicit responses to the rate at which they mentored aspiring and inexperienced superintendents. The findings suggest that the superintendents who were mentored were likely to mentor others.
The sixth and final research question sought to learn if there were any dysfunctional experiences during the mentoring processes. Several researchers
(McCormick, 1991; Lawson, 1992; Eby, McManus, Simon, and Russell, 2000; Jensen, 2000) have cautioned about the pitfalls that could be encountered if the mentoring process is not handled properly. With this in mind, the researcher asked the participants to report of any negative or dysfunctional experiences which they encountered during the mentoring process. Seventeen percent of the respondents indicated that they had experiences which they considered to have been negative and/or dysfunctional. Although the respondents did not specify the nature of the dysfunctional experiences, and given that 17% may not be considered statistically significant a number, this finding is educationally and socially significant in that it reminds us of the care that should be employed as we endeavor to develop mentoring programs for aspiring superintendents.


Based on the findings of the study, this researcher makes the following recommendations, in the hope that implementation would contribute to the profession while improving the condition of individuals who are members of the underrepresented constituencies in the superintendency:

  • Given the underrepresentation of certain groups in the superintendency, and given the crisis of leadership that is often decried by many policy makers, it would serve the profession well, if the professional and constituent organizations such as the New York State School Boards Association, the New York State Council of School Superintendents, the New York State Association for Women in Administration (NYSAWA), and the New York State Association of School Business Officials (NYASBO) would work collectively in their attempts to address this issue. Each group would bring its individual interests and expertise to the process which could result in the improvement of the process by which potential superintendents are indentified and employed. An outcome of the joint venture would be programs for training and professional development for current and aspiring African American superintendents.

    Programs in educational leadership which are housed in the nation’s universities and colleges should consider the creation and funding of positions of superintendents in residence. These superintendents in residence would provide the students with information about the practical aspects of the superintendency, including case studies, simulations, advice on pressing issues, etc. This would be a mandatory requirement of the program, but there will be not a grading component, thus relieving the students of the pressure and anxiety which often accompany grades, but at the same time affording them the opportunity to engage in a process which will greatly enhance the graduate experience. This experience would provide some of the benefits that the students would ordinarily receive were they to be mentored

  • Although the results of the research project indicate that African American superintendents are mentored, such mentoring is the result of the initiatives of the mentees and their mentors. The preparation of superintendents is too important to be left to chance. Therefore, it is recommended that the New York State Education Department (NYSED) consider the requirement of a mentoring experience for all new superintendents. This is a requirement in several states, and superintendents in those states have reported on the value of the experience. The superintendents will be permitted to select their mentors from a roster of NYSED approved candidates. As demonstrated in other states, the mentoring experience ought to improve the competence of the new superintendents. If this were to be a requirement for all new superintendents, then the African American Superintendents would automatically benefit from it.

  • Superintendents and Boards of Education should give thought to the development of additional in-district mentoring programs so that the districts’ pipelines of senior level administrators could be enriched. This would allow for the aspiring superintendents to gain valuable on the job experiences, and at the same time learn from the veteran superintendents.

  • Search consultants and Boards of Education ought to make concerted efforts to diversify the superintendency by employing individuals who are members of underrepresented groups. Care must be taken to ensure that in each case the candidate is highly qualified, and that he or she is the best person for the position. In implementing this practice, the decision makers must make special efforts to avoid the appearance of tokenism and quotas. The effort would not only add greater diversity to the profession, it would enrich the superintendency, and ultimately benefit the children who are served.

  • Institutions and organizations which implement and administer mentoring programs should make concerted efforts to put measures in place which would reduce the occurrence of dysfunctional and/or negative incidents during the mentoring process. In addition, individuals who opt to engage in the mentoring process ought to be sure that they are sufficiently conversant in the process before embarking on the activities which are associated with it.

Considerations for Further Study

Based on the results of this research project, this researcher would recommend the following for further exploration and study:

  • In some states, the mentoring experience is a requirement for the superintendency. Every superintendent is required to work with a mentor for a period of time. In addition, some states mandate for their superintendents to engage in required professional development. This is not a requirement in New York State and some other states. Consideration ought to be given to a study which examines requirements for the continuing education and professional development of superintendents in different states in this country. This will provide information which informs issues systems leadership as various States’ and Federal agencies contemplate policies for the effective leadership of our school systems.

  • Several authors (Knight 1993; Ellerbee, 2002; Parker, 2009) have commented that superintendents have reported on the importance of mentoring in their careers. Consideration should be given to a study which compares the success and career satisfaction of superintendents who have been mentored and those who have not been mentored. This would add to the literature about the impact of mentoring as a contributing factor on the careers of school superintendents.

  • The New York State Council of School Superintendents administers a Future Superintendents Academy, a program designed to prepare aspiring superintendents for the superintendency. Consideration should be given to a research project which compares the rate at which graduates of the academy obtain positions of superintendents of schools against the rates of those individuals who did not participate in the academy. I would recommend that mentoring become an integral component of the academy, and that a mentor/coach is assigned to each participant.

  • This study examined the mentoring experiences of a particular population of superintendents in a single state. Consideration should be given to a replicate of this study with a sampling of all superintendents in the same state. This will provide useful comparative data about the mentoring experiences of all superintendents.

  • Some researchers (Scott, 1980; Jackson, 2002, among others) have reported that even though qualified candidates are present, search consultants often report that qualified African American candidates are not available to fill the vacancies which materialize. Consideration should be given to a study of aspiring superintendents in which information will be gathered regarding their qualifications, preparedness or lack thereof, and their experiences as they pursue the superintendency. Such a study will provide data which would address the issue of the preparation and availability of qualified African American candidates for the position of superintendent of schools.

  • Issues of race and gender often permeate discussions about the underrepresentation in the superintendency. Some authors have concluded that attempts to ameliorate these conditions occur along gender and racial lines. Consideration ought to be given to a study which looks at the issues of race and gender in the preparation and hiring of superintendents, and whether or not factors of race and gender influence who is mentored, and by whom.

    Published in In Motion Magazine February 7, 2012.

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