Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Walter L. Burt


The purpose of this study was to explore how selected superintendents are experiencing the collective bargaining process. Exploration included an examination of the various roles that selected superintendents have played in the collective bargaining process within rural and suburban school districts in Michigan.

Furthermore, exploration included thematic areas of greatest challenges facing superintendents in recent collective bargaining negotiations. Particular emphasis was given to the style of collective bargaining environment that superintendents reported as most conducive to successful contract negotiations. In addition, the rising cost of health care benefits was a significant point of emphasis within this study.

Twenty-six superintendents from rural and suburban public schools within the state of Michigan participated in this study. Each member of the sample group of superintendents participated in either an in-depth individual interview or a focus group interview.

The study used phenomenological approaches to analyze, synthesize, and develop emerging themes that indicated the range of issues and strategies experienced by superintendents within the collective bargaining process.

The researcher analyzed and coded the data collected from the individual and focus group interviews. Findings of this study identified several thematic response trends including: (1) Superintendents believe that collective bargaining is more productive in the absence of professional negotiators such as school board hired attorneys and MEA representatives. (2) Superintendents believe that honesty and openness are essential to productive collective bargaining sessions. Honesty and openness are manifested in the form of willingness to share all pertinent district financial documentation. Additionally, open and honest collective bargaining is characterized by a lack of gamesmanship including the practice of making salary or benefit offers that are unrealistic in nature. (3) Superintendents believe that MESSA, a third-party health benefits administrator, is overly expensive and are actively pursuing strategies that will reduce school district cost liabilities in relation to health care costs. (4) In light of current State of Michigan economical issues, superintendents are regularly dealing with the following issues at the bargaining table: proposed reduction of student contact time, a desire to raise staff awareness regarding total compensation, and a hesitancy to negotiate contracts in excess of two years in duration.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access