Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Lawrence Schlack

Second Advisor

Dr. James Sanders

Third Advisor

Dr. Howard F arris


The question of whether the school board or the superintendent really governs public schools continues to appear in the literature. An issue related to this question is the amount of political and policy leadership exercised by superintendents.

The purpose of this study was to make a beginning inquiry into current expectations for superintendent political and policy leadership by school board presidents.

Five hypotheses were identified involving variables of political and policy leadership, intraboard cohesion, and size of the district.

The research included requesting data from school board presidents of 513 third and fourth class school districts in Michigan. Eventually 396 questionnaires were returned for a 77.2% response rate. Data were analyzed using chi square, z test of population proportions, t tests, one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), and population percentages. Major conclusions are: (a) the largest percentage of school boards (48%) display consensual intraboard cohesion followed by factional (32.2%) and pluralistic (19.8%); (b) school board presidents in fourth class districts report a greater proportion of consensual boards than do presidents in third class districts; (c) there were no findings to support the research hypothesis that selected political and policy leadership expectations differ for school board presidents serving on consensual, pluralistic, or factional boards; (d) school superintendents perceive they should exercise stronger political and policy leadership than board presidents indicate they should; and (e) school board presidents' attitudes differ greatly in regard to the amount of policy leadership and political leadership the superintendent should exercise. Political leadership expectations are low and policy leadership expectations are high.

This study supports the conclusion that school board presidents are comfortable with the superintendent playing a strong leadership role in the initiation and development of policy. The most serious area for conflict is superintendent involvement with school board elections.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access