Selected characteristics and career patterns of district superintendents (1949-1982)

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Daniel D. Sage


School administration

Subject Categories

Elementary and Middle and Secondary Education Administration


District (BOCES) Superintendents are important positions in the educational infrastructure of New York State, yet very little is known about their characteristics or careers. Until now, no one has studied these educational leaders as a distinct and separate group. This study provides a description of characteristics and career patterns of District Superintendents from 1949-1982. It also identifies similarities and differences which occur over time and across geographical regions of the state.

This is a descriptive study which employs the measures of central tendency to identify similarities and differences in the subsets of the population. Data for the study were collected from state education department records. Thirteen categories of data on District Superintendent characteristics were identified in those records, e.g. date of birth, date of appointment, undergraduate college. In addition, ten additional categories of data were derived from the original data, e.g. age at appointment, years of teaching experience. The records also contained career data--number, type and sequence of positions held. These data were compiled, sorted and analyzed on the basis of three identified time periods which correspond to the terms of key state education department personnel, and eleven geographic regions.

This study reveals that almost all District Superintendents' careers began as a teacher. The length of time spent in teaching, however, has steadily declined since 1949, while pre-appointment administrative experience has increased reflecting a growing complexity in the job. A trend toward more formal educational training is also revealed. In later appointment periods appointees have been older indicating the position has become more clearly an upper management, end of career position. No clear regional differences in District Superintendent characteristics were revealed.

The positions of superintendent of local school districts and BOCES administrator have become more common in pre-District Superintendent careers over time. These positions, along with the position of principal, appear to have become assessment positions in career patterns leading to District Superintendent. Career patterns have become more complex reflecting maturation of BOCES as an educational institution. Changes in careers leading to District Superintendent have not resulted in the appointment of women. The career patterns also reflect an upstate-downstate split.


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