An Examination of the Experiences and Challenges Faced by African American Superintendents in Tennessee School Districts
A number of dissertation studies regarding race and the Superintendency suggests that race has played an important role in how African American Superintendents are seen and how they, themselves see their potential for success. An evolution of social change has resulted in African American superintendents’ acceptability and respectability being more widely embraced. In contrast, most of the dissertations written on this topic in the last decade ( in states Texas, North Carolina, Michigan and California) have revealed “good ole boy” networks, recommendations for persistence, lack of professional networks, having their competence questioned and the “double standard” for success (Jackson & Shakeshaft, 2003; Jones,1983; Moody, 1971;Tillman, 2004,). Moody (1971) and Scott (1980), who conducted earlier studies on “Black superintendents” (used interchangeably with African American superintendents), also found that African American superintendents are relegated to “less desirable” districts. The highest concentration of the districts with African American superintendents were found in the south: Mississippi leading with 46, Texas 24, South Carolina 23, Georgia 21, and Alabama (21) (NABSE, 2018). According to Tennessee’s Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS), there are 146 school districts in Tennessee. Notably, of the 146 school districts only 5.6% or eight of the school superintendents are African American: seven males and one female. The findings in this study suggest that “most” of the African American superintendents in Tennessee school districts experienced equality of opportunity during their ascension and while serving as superintendent. This was accredited to their relative networks, mentors and sponsors. The findings also reveal that African American superintendents in Tennessee school districts experienced challenges associated with both race and gender discrimination. A re-occurring challenged was Ambiguous Empowerment (Chase, 1995), relative to their race and gender. Essentially, they offered recommendations to aspiring African American superintendents: expect challenges relative to politics, race and gender. More importantly they added: keep the “kids first”, establish a legacy, and remain ethical, while meeting the expectations of the community and school board.
Educational leadership|Educational administration
Johnny L Wyatt,
"An Examination of the Experiences and Challenges Faced by African American Superintendents in Tennessee School Districts"
ETD Collection for Tennessee State University.