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Educational Leadership

Dissertation highlight: Aaron Downs, EdD ’14

February 02, 2017

Lived Experiences of Retired Transformative Superintendents in Oregon


The purpose of this study was to examine the lived experiences of retired transformative public school superintendents in Oregon. The difficult, complex, and dynamic position of the superintendent is told through the untapped wealth of knowledge and experience from those who have served in the position for a minimum of ten years. This research contributes to the limited body of research of superintendents and provides a contemporary analysis of the complexities of the position of the superintendent.

Nine retired transformative public school superintendents in Oregon participated in this research. The study gained a deeper understanding of the recollections of the retired superintendents through in-depth interviews. Data was analyzed, interpreted, and coded using common themes.

The major findings in the study included: retired transformative superintendents were a lifelong and lead learner in their position as superintendent. A second finding in the study highlighted the key role of equity in the work of a superintendent. A third finding is centered on the need for the superintendent to be an innovator, problem solver, and informed opportunist. A fourth finding is the vital role of humor in the position of the superintendent. The fifth finding is each of the retired superintendents, if given the opportunity, would choose to become superintendents again.

Future superintendents can use this research to better understand the position of the superintendent and to study and learn “wisdom from their elders” in order to be a successful superintendent. Superintendent preparation programs can also use this research in the designing and implementation of relevant curriculum in training the next generation of superintendents.