Richard Perry

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling


The cycle of change and superintendent replacement in a public school district was documented and later named Dissatisfaction Theory by Iannaccone and Lutz (1970). Since then there have been multiple studies that have further documented failed relationships between the values of the community, the school board, and the superintendent. The research has demonstrated that dissatisfied voters replace school board members who in turn replace the superintendent with someone who will reflect the ideology and policies desired by the community.

The purposes of this study were to a) Better understand the dynamics of the position of superintendent, b) Inform superintendents, school boards and community members to extend their knowledge, and c) Advance the knowledge of Dissatisfaction Theory. The purposes were accomplished by investigating events that occurred in a single school and community. In that community, incumbent school board members were replaced during several periods of politicization. The propositions of Dissatisfaction Theory predicted that the school board would have replaced the superintendent but they did not, and instead the superintendent retained his position until retirement.

The conceptual framework of Dissatisfaction Theory developed by Iannaccone and his student Lutz, based upon the writings of Mosca, Michaels, and Key, prompted the researcher to consider exploring further a situation that appeared to be an exception to the theory. The study utilized a research methodology based upon the perspective of the interpretivist paradigm. The Parson and Thompson conceptual model for the study of an organization; institutional leadership activities, managerial activities, and technical activities were considered to examine and make sense of the data.

The multiple eras of the Portage area; beginning with the Potawatomi Indians through the retirement of the Superintendent in 2002, were investigated and described. The earlier eras were used to better understand the final era, when the exception to the rule seemed to occur. Data analysis of primary and secondary source documents, interviews, and participant observations indicated that the area was dominated by two primary groups, the Yankees who arrived first and later the Dutch who together formed the dominant culture. As the area grew, it changed but still retained a strong presence of the Yankees and Dutch. The agricultural economy changed to a community of professionals that expected an educational system that provided elite academic, athletic, and fine arts programs.

The research concluded that Dissatisfaction Theory did hold in Portage but that it was delayed through a skilled superintendent who employed a variety of tactics to manage conflict at all organizational levels and by the lack of action by the board. The research also concluded that dissatisfaction occurs at all levels of the organization -- institutional, managerial, and activity -- and that all contribute to the removal of the superintendent. Finally, the study concluded that if a board fails to act, powerful community members will eventually come forward to force their values on the superintendent.