Date of Award

Spring 2003

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Barbara H Krysiak


Many Americans, including educational professionals, eschew politics in classrooms, administrative offices, or any interaction with the educational system. The apolitical myth has it roots in the struggle for public schooling by common school crusaders like Horace Mann and Henry Barnard and continuing in the twentieth century with adoption of Frederick Taylor's scientific management principles. Despite commonly held notions of the separateness and distance between politics and education, this study concludes that politics in education is inevitable.

The purpose of the study is to uncover connections between superintendents' leadership orientations and their political behaviors and beliefs using a multiple perspectives approach. Bolman and Deal's (1984, 1992, 1997) typology of leadership theories postulated into four frames or ways of seeing (structural, human resource, political, and symbolic) serves as the conceptual framework. Frames as cognitive lenses open superintendents to viewing a broader range of potential and influential actions. Research establishing multiple perspectives recognizes the desirability for developing cognitive complexity (Bensimon, Neumann, & Birnbaum, 1989). Developing superintendents' cognitive complexity, the ability to move within frames, support challenges of change, uncertainty, and ambiguity inherent in the superintendency.

This inquiry into the politics of education seeks the perspective of one of the major actors, the school superintendent. Using survey methodology, school superintendents in New Hampshire identify their leadership orientations and their perceptions of the political resources and actions used to influence outcomes in their school districts.

This study concludes that New Hampshire superintendents are not unlike superintendents nationally in identifying the human resource frame as their dominant frame. Patterns of leadership orientations categorize into those focused on two frames and those distributed over three frames. Unlike findings from many studies, sixty-one percent of New Hampshire superintendents' leadership orientations are distributed over three frames. Despite lower orientation rates for a political frame perspective, New Hampshire superintendents actively engage in politics.