The role of management firms concerning the selection of superintendents of schools
The role of the consultant is to determine the leadership strengths of a candidate for the position of superintendent and recommend the candidates who meet the district's criteria to the school board. This study examined the role of consultants in the selection of candidates and investigated whether consultants have a bias concerning age, physical appearance, gender, race, and socio economic status in their selection process for the superintendency. This study also explored whether leadership potential is limited by age, physical appearance, gender, race, and socio economic status. Does this potential limitation adversely affect the number of viable candidates who have consultant recommendations and therefore access to the process for selection?
The subjects for the study consisted of consultants working in management firms that they either began or headed. The consultants of the study were located throughout the United States and they conducted searches in the northeastern, central, midwestern, and west coast states of the United States. The firms chosen for this study were located in various geographical settings such as cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Two male and two female consultants were chosen for the study. This provided a cross section of data to compare the process and the biases of consultants working in different areas of the country and between genders.
The findings of this study confirmed that there were four consultants who demonstrated that the factors of age, physical appearance, gender, race, and socio economic status partially affected the determination of leadership. Although the consultants felt that age was irrelevant, they were cautious about hiring a younger candidate who did not have as many years experience of educational administrative work as their older competitors. More superintendents are changing positions at an older age, in their 50s.
Three of the four consultants were affected by the first impression of physical appearance that the candidate showed in the interview. Consultants use physical characteristics of appearance, dress, body language, eye contact, and a handshake to aid in determining leadership potential. This supports that physical characteristics, not merely the abilities and credentials of an individual, alter the perception by others of leadership potential.
The percentage of women applying for the superintendency is increasing. In some areas of the country, boards still may have the image of a male leader for the superintendency but more women will have an opportunity to become superintendents because of the retirement of men. Women, however, need to demonstrate skills in multiple areas of administration in order to level the playing field.
Minority candidates are most often superintendents in districts with a high percentage of minorities. Consultants recruit minority candidates from districts with a majority of that minority group. Consultants consider a minority search difficult.
All consultants consider the socio economic status of a candidate and look to match it with the culture and climate of the community. All consultants felt that the candidate needed to understand the culture and community of a school district in order to be successful.
The consultant has a difficult role in matching a candidate with a school district. Biases and prejudice can play a part in limiting the pool of candidates who are available. Awareness of mental models may help a consultant and others to remain objective in the process of determining leadership strengths and to base selection on skills and not on intangible characteristics that can be perceived as leadership.
0453: Womens studies