How a Superintendent Develops and Maintains a Positive School Board-Superintendent Relationship: A Case Study




Nava, Ramiro

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Johnston et al. (2002) state relationship building is the key to the success and survival of the superintendent when working with his/her school board. Traditional school boards expect their superintendents to be a visionary, instructional leader, fiscal manager, facility manager, assessment expert, community builder, and the face of the district (Sharp and Walter, 2004). To add, school boards also expect superintendents to efficiently manage school operations while flourishing as strong instructional leaders with a strong focus on addressing the needs of the greater community as well as matters that are important to them (King, 1999; Kowalski, 2006).

The purpose of this study is to identify how a current superintendent develops and maintains a positive school board-superintendent relationship. This study will focus on the actions a superintendent utilizes in attaining and sustaining a positive working relationship with school board members, through the investigation of the inner working components of this functioning team, the ethical characteristics that allow such a team to work together, and the operational standards that allow the school board-superintendent team to work together.

In this examination, I analyzed the concepts and principles of a positive working team that exist in the current literature and compared them to a currently serving superintendent. I gained a deeper understanding of how a superintendent implements team building principles into real-world situations (Creswell, 2013; Harris; 1968). The investigation allowed me to view shared and established patterns of language, interactions, behaviors, values, and respect among the participants of the study (Creswell, 2013; Denzin & Lincoln, 2008; Fetterman, 1998). By conducting interviews of a superintendent and board members in their single school district, I gained rich information to provide a thick description to better understand the working relationship of the board-superintendent team (Fetterman, 1998; Geertz, 1973). The HeartWork conceptual model resulted from this research study.

The HeartWork conceptual model embodies the foundation for individuals who want to establish and maintain a positive relationship with students, parents, peer, or partners. The center of this model depicts a heart made of multiple hands. This symbolizes the love, caring and compassion a person brings to a relationship. Then the model utilizes a circle because circles are round by definition with no edges or sides. The circle in this model represents an inclusive representation and relationship. The circle is then divided into four quarters. Each sections represents a character trait that emerged from the literature review of this case study. Each of the quarters is shadowed by the four transformational leadership dimensions. Finally, the directional arrows on the model represent the interaction among all eight attributes. The arrows also act as a motion piece or dial that symbolizes the clock-wise movement of this circle that serves to combine features between behavior characteristic and transformational leadership dimensions. This allows for the model to display all 16 possible HeartWork categories.


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Relationships, School Boards, Superintendent, Transformational Leadership



Educational Leadership and Policy Studies