Book Review

Case Studies of the Superintendency

Reviewed by Rene Townsend,
Lecturer, California State University,
San Marcos, Calif.


Superintendents will see themselves and their experiences detailed in most, if not all, of the stories contained in Case Studies of the Superintendency.

The cases will resonate because they describe actual situations superintendents face in their roles as instructional leader, reformer and transformer, political strategist and chief educator in the community. Cases address topics such as handling conflict, merit pay, legal issues, leadership development, accountability and dealing with the press. There are examples of excellence in leadership despite the odds.

Edited by Paula Short and Jay Paredes Scribner of the University of Missouri, contributors of the 10 cases are predominately university professors who have done research on the superintendency; some have been superintendents. Their intent is to introduce "novice practitioners to future scenarios awaiting them, and to challenge experienced practitioners to wrestle with understanding the role of the superintendency." The book offers the opportunity for both of these outcomes.

Rich in detail, the cases outline the complexity of seemingly simple issues, zeroing in on clarifying the superintendent’s highest priorities and most critical responsibilities. Some case studies are inspirational and provide models for planning and action for long-term instructional improvement; others offer guidance regarding the importance of maintaining balance, a strong ethical base and doing what is right.

The limitations of the book for instructional purposes are the lack of an overarching framework and approach to the use of case studies for problem-based learning and the lack of consistency. Some cases provide a framework, and others have guiding questions for both short- and long-range implications. However, a number of cases offer neither and require the reader to gather information from other sources.

Aspiring superintendents will benefit from reading and discussing the cases with guidance from an experienced and skilled superintendent. However, the greatest value may be for practicing superintendents who could bring their own experience to bear on the cases.

(Case Studies of the Superintendency, edited by Paula M. Short and Jay Paredes Scribner, Scarecrow Press/Technomic Books, Lanham, Md. 2000, 176 pp. with index, $36.50 hardcover)