Perspectives of School Superintendents in School Crises
Williams, Cynthia Crissman
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According to the PK-12 Public School Facility Infrastructure Fact Sheet compiled by the 21st Century School Fund in February 2011, there are over 98,706 PK-12 grade public schools and nearly 90% of the entire 55.5 million school age children in the United States attend public schools (p. 1). These school facilities and school spaces are sites of unexpected, critical incidents. Even though schools are generally a safe place for students to learn, a crisis may occur at any given time in any given location. School superintendents live through these crisis situations and must make critical decisions under extreme stress with limited time, resources, and information involving crisis situations. Leaders must share and learn from their lived experiences relating to crisis situations in order to prepare for future situations. The success and failures of leaders' past experiences provides valuable research as a future reference to help other school superintendents. In this study, a phenomenological approach was used to document the lived experiences of school superintendents that suffered a loss or damage to a school facility. The loss or damage of each school facility was the result of four separate crisis situations that occurred within a five- month time frame in the Commonwealth of Virginia. School superintendents and facility directors from these four school divisions were interviewed in order to document their perspectives of leadership in crisis. These school superintendents experienced the loss or damage of a school facility as a result of a tornado, an earthquake, or a fire. Four main themes emerged from their experiences: (a) communication, (b) leadership, (c) recovery, and (d) support. Triangulation of data sources included interviews with superintendents, interviews with facility directors, and archival data. A horizonalization code mapping procedure was used for data analysis. Two key implications for practice were identified: (a) communication and (b) relationships. Each superintendent emphasized the need for quick, accurate dissemination of information through various modes of communication. Interconnected with communication, the superintendents recognized the importance of key relationships built before, during, and after a crisis. Supportive relationships made a difference in the recovery journey for each school superintendent.
- Doctoral Dissertations