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Report Offers a Narrow, Conflict-Based View of District Leadership

BOULDER, CO (March 6, 2018) – Unlocking Potential: How Political Skill Can Maximize Superintendent Effectiveness, published by the Center on Reinventing Public Education, focuses on the political power of the position of school superintendent and how that power can and should be harnessed.

William J. Mathis of the University of Colorado Boulder reviewed the report and found it to be lacking in substance due to the absence of a knowledge base in the research literature and a lack of experience.

Superintending, according to the report, is characterized by a continuous string of almost unavoidable conflicts. So the reader is led through internal groups (central office, school board, unions, teachers and principals) and external groups (foundations, businesses and state politicians) and advised on how to cultivate support and deal with opponents.

Mathis, a former superintendent and finalist for national superintendent of the year, points out that there is no research design, literature review, or systematic data collection. The report instead relies heavily on the authors’ experiences, although neither author appears to have worked in a K-12 district or served as a superintendent.

Moreover, the advice that follows is often contrary to contemporary professional practices. The report improperly generalizes from more politicized large urban districts and does not consider how the favored approaches may limit vision, flexibility and effectiveness. In the end, the report perpetuates antiquated methods and does not advance our knowledge.

Find the review, by William J. Mathis, at:

Find Unlocking Potential: How Political Skill Can Maximize Superintendent Effectiveness, written by Paul Hill and Ashley Jochim and published by Center on Reinventing Public Education, at:

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