Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, PhD

Committee Chair

Ingle, Kyle

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Buecker, Harrie

Committee Member

Buecker, Harrie

Committee Member

Haselton, Blake

Committee Member

Lingo, Amy

Author's Keywords

superintendent; induction; onboarding; training; competency; longevity


The position of the school superintendent in the United States, at both the state and local level, has evolved over the past 200 years in response to the needs of the profession, ever-changing communities, and political mandates (Kowalski et al., 2011). The role of superintendent has shifted in focus from teacher-scholar to manager to democratic leader to social scientist and, finally, to communicator (Callahan, 1966; Bjork, Browne-Ferrigno, & Kowalski, 2018). Generalizing the problems facing superintendents can be a challenging proposition. However, no two situations are the same. A number of factors, including school board size, district demographics, financial position, state and local politics, and high-stakes accountability performance can play a role in the challenges facing school superintendents (Byrd, Drews, & Johnson, 2006). With research indicating that whole-district student achievement is dependent upon superintendent stability (Talbert & Beach, 2013), the need to retain effective superintendents is apparent, especially in historically lower achieving districts. Studies reveal the average tenure of superintendents ranges from less than three years up to more than six years (Grissom & Anderson, 2012; Natkin et al., 2002). If stability is a desired outcome, how can districts ensure longer tenures for their superintendents? What strategies exist to increase the average number of years for district leadership? Can training play a role in equipping leaders with the necessary tools for battling the known causes of turnover, thereby thwarting the pressures and influences that lead to superintendent transition? Turnover and turnover prevention through advanced levels of training are the foci of this study. The purpose of my qualitative study was to examine Kentucky’s superintendent induction program, designed and implemented by the Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA), by analyzing the participants’ perceptions of the program in terms of increasing their competency and likelihood of longevity (tenure) in the district leadership role. My study incorporates the use of qualitative methods to describe how superintendents perceive competency and preparedness after one year of exposure to the mandated onboarding induction program. The participants have completed the most recent iteration of the Next Generation Leadership Series—those superintendents who are in Cohort 5 during the 2016-2017 school year. The findings suggest that participation in a cohort-model induction program enhances competencies and could have a positive influence on longevity. In addition, suggestions for a more effective induction program are included. I recommended further research on the many variables that combine to create an effective, successful superintendent, from personal demographic information to career path options. These recommendations will require researchers to perform longitudinal studies up to 10 years to understand thoroughly the impact of induction, or other trainings, on competency and longevity. The results of my study add to the research on superintendent retention, induction programs, and mentoring, which emerged as a pivotal theme from both first-time superintendents and veteran superintendents.