Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Martha W. Tack, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

James Berry, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Patrick Melia, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jaclynn Tracy, Ph.D.


Only recently have scholars paid attention to the African American woman superintendent who is an anomaly in this powerful leadership position in public education. Additionally, only a few academicians have asked why talented African American women who successfully obtain the superintendency exit the position so quickly. The primary purpose of this phenomenological focused qualitative study was to identify and document the experiences contributing to the decisions of selected former African American women superintendents to exit, voluntarily or involuntarily, their public school superintendencies and not to seek another one, choosing instead to pursue other positions, either in education or in a totally different field.

Through confidential, personal interviews, using an open-ended, semistructured interview guide, data were collected from 7 former African American women superintendents and 1 current African American woman superintendent who had previously exited her first superintendency. Once the digitally recorded interviews were transcribed and the transcripts authenticated by each participant, analysis was completed using the steps suggested by Creswell (1998) in his spiral analysis and by Boyatzis (1996) in his proposed process of thematic analysis.

Corroborated by an external auditor, the resulting analysis and stories evolved from thorough examination of these topical areas included in the research questions: factors causing their exit from the superintendency; perceptions and descriptions of their superintendent experiences; impact of race and/or gender on their superintendency; advice for African American women about career preparation, experiences, competencies; and overall guidance related to achieving longevity in the superintendency. These 8 competent and accomplished African American women educators revealed that their exits were influenced by various “pushes” and “pulls” described in the dissertation. The researcher also identified categories as well as themes and presented 8 signal conclusions drawn from participant interviews.

The dissertation culminates with 3 recommendations for research and 10 recommendations for practice. The first 6 recommendations for practice focus on membership requirements and mandatory training as well as continued professional development for service as a local school board member. The last 4 practice recommendations relate to professional associations, incumbent and aspiring African American women superintendents, university administrators, and university faculty members in educational leadership programs.