Book Reviews

Eight at the Top: A View Inside Public Education

by Gloria Johnston, Gwen Gross, Rene Townsend, Peggy Lynch, Pat Novotney, Benita Roberts, Lorraine Garcy and Libia Gil

Eight at the Top: A View Inside Public Education
Reviewed by Art Stellar
President, High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, Ypsilanti, Mich.


What began as a doctoral dissertation turned into a profound and extended written conversation among eight female superintendents. It provided an opportunity for this group to bond and support one another—and it opened a window into the soul of the superintendency.

The stories are authentic and well written. Superintendents can relate to the messages. Aspiring superintendents can learn from these vicarious experiences. Board members could improve the craft of boardmanship by searching for clues within these pages. School district groupies and others who follow local educational happenings will gain insights from this book.

Narratives focus more upon professional experiences than on personal musings. This is a strength as the reflections of the authors come across as points for others to learn. In fact, each chapter concludes with a list of “Lessons Learned.”

The best written chapter, “Knowing Your Students,” brings to light the rationale for why these superintendents entered the profession—the caring for young people and the belief they could make a positive difference. The stories in this section are more personal and emotional. In the words of the authors, “Our caring for students is what got us going, what keeps us going, and what provides us our ultimate job satisfaction.”

Textbooks and academic analysis have the capacity to move the field of educational administration only so far. Personal anecdotes and reflection shaped by the influence of peer superintendents adds to the knowledge base. The lives of superintendents mirror the general population in many respects, except perhaps mobility. Eight at the Top is a reality check upon the nature of the superintendency and a step forward for the profession.

(Eight at the Top: A View Inside Public Education, by Gloria Johnston, Gwen Gross, Rene Townsend, Peggy Lynch, Pat Novotney, Benita Roberts, Lorraine Garcy and Libia Gil, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Md., 2002, 142 pp., $29.95 softcover)