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In the South, corporal punishment is an accepted discipline. Quite often it becomes an issue

because White parents do not want a Black principal, it doesn’t matter if you are a man or woman, to paddle their child. You can follow all the rules in the handbook but if my White colleague

paddles, there are very few objections.

Another issue associated with race evolves around who is appointed to predominately ethnic

minority schools with an at-risk population of students. Several principals suggested that when career applications were made to larger White public schools, the applications are not filled by Black principals but rather White principals. They contend that they are “equally as qualified to mentor White students and teachers” as other their White peers. However, because they are Black, there is an unconscious racist perspective that reverse mentoring is not possible. One seasoned administrator posed the difficulty of discerning when many actions are actually issues of race and when they are not. “Sometimes you encounter racial issues so much you wonder if this is racist or if it isn’t. In the Black culture we use a lot of metaphors to better understand what’s going on and sometimes we still don’t get it.”

In order to support this administrator’s dilemma, the sport of golf is used as a racial metaphor. A former university dean described golfing as an engaging sport that creates a dialogue for a

multiplicity of topics including race. This sport also offers a metaphor for understanding the

culture in which we live. According to Albert Doucette, during golf, a lesser player may be given a Two Gotcha Handicap. At any time during the game, the player could stand behind the better

player and in the middle of the person’s shot yell "gotcha." This outburst obviously would interfere with the player’s shot. This first, of two or more “gotchas”, was used very early in the game. The second “gotcha” was used very late or never. Hence, it was the anticipation of its use that ruined the better player's focus and game success. There is a correlation between golf and actions of racism. People of color meet prejudice early in life. This is their first “gotcha.” They then anticipate the second or subsequent gotchas for the rest of their lives. This anticipation often ruins much of their life because sometimes behaviors of the dominant culture can be perceived as racist when in actuality they are not and at other times actions are certainly acts of blatant racism.

Whether mirage or reality, both situations play with the human psyche and often cause members

of historically underrepresented groups to imitate the discriminatory actions of many dominant

culture members. Consequently, people of color often begin to target one another with acts of


In a stratified and multiethnic society, those at the bottom of the stratification system tend to vie for resources and opportunities by exhibiting the “battle royal” of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952). Ellison illustrates that Blacks, like crabs in a bucket, are often forced to entertain the world whereby one crab attempts to make it to the top toward liberation but does not succeed

because it is quickly pulled down by another crab below.

The crabs in a bucket idea can be consciously and unconsciously evoked when there has been one

person of color in a work environment and a new person of color arrives. The newcomer’s arrival may create a feeling of competition and back stabbing by the former employee rather than

generating a welcoming atmosphere where there is unity in numbers and collaboration. This

behavior occurs in far too many cases; Black principals are victims who have been taught to

problem solve through coercive tactics rather than mind, intellect, and futuristic ideology.

Many of the participants (52%) mentioned health as a factor in effecting successful principals.

The position was consistently described as “highly stressful.” Among the list of health concerns faced by Black principals were high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Hence, the survey participants in this study advocate infusing a healthy exercise regiment into the

administrative lifestyle. According to principal, Reginald Elzy, a seventeen year educational

professional, “I wake up every morning and work-out beginning from 4:45am-5:45am.” Carolyn

Roman, twenty-seven year career professional, suggested, “I had a flare-up with high blood

pressure and immediately started walking. Thank God I do not have to rely on high blood pressure or behavior altering medications as many of my colleagues do.” The respondent, continued,

“Issues of health seem to be really important during career changes.”

Career transition evolved as a variable in conjunction with health. Many principals who were

married or in committed relationships, echoed that the transition from one level of administration to a higher level of administration created stress in communications with their spouses, significant others, and/or their children. Spirituality was described as one of the vehicles to facilitate one through this transition. A former principal and now acting superintendent described his career

transition like this:

The way I cope is to work in my garden and yard. I am also an avid reader. I think most

importantly, is that I have God in my life and I try to work with my wife (a teacher) to bring as little school work as possible home. Home is my own family’s time. By the way, I think women

have more problems with bringing the school work to the home environment than men.

Many of the participants noted humor or laughter as a temporary solution to challenges associated with the principalship. One principal living in Mississippi described her ability to cope with

difficult challenges in the following manner, “I go into my office and laugh and laugh.” Laughter is now being studied for its therapeutic qualities. Laughter can be medicinal. According to

Godfrey (2004) there is growing evidence, both scientific and observational, of a clinical

association between humor and health. Numerous studies (Goodgrey, 2004; Dziegielewski,

Jacinto, Laudadio, & Legg-Rodgriguez, 2004; White & Camarena, 1989) support the benefits of laughter in cardiac rehabilitation, pain perception, discomfort threshold, coping and stress, and immune response. It improves heart functioning, reduces stress levels, has the power to heal

relationships, and is great for mental outlook. Because of its many health benefits, laughter can indirectly help manage chronic pain and speed recovery from injury.

Music is another form of coping with challenges provided by survey participants. Again, most of the survey participants listed music as a stress reducer to school related challenges. Research by Glantz (2000) recommends a practical, concise, easy-to-read guide for relieving stress,written

specifically for educators. Glantz, in a recent book, suggestsa relaxation and energy-enhancing practice with breath-control exercises, an energy-generating form, and concentration (meditation) techniques. An accompanying CD includes 11 relaxation routines set to soothing background

music. Educators who were taught these relaxation and energizing techniques reported overall

feelings of well-being, increased self-confidence, less frequent headaches or bouts of insomnia, and better personal relationships with spouse, children, school employer and colleagues.

This discussion bears a personal note for the use of humor and music. I have a Ph.D. in Education and my sister holds an M.D. in Internal Medicine. She is also a wife and mother and I am a newly adoptive single mother, so the quality time shared as sisters is usually when I have returned home from the university and she is driving home from work to pick up her children from school as she navigates rush hour traffic while talking on the cell phone. There are very few days that pass when we do not have a dialogue about the day’s experience. These experiences usually entail some

forms of discrimination that have taken place at her workplace or mine.

Our dialogue is so entitled because of the perseverance it takes to complete a professional degree program and, in spite of the long hours of clinical practice and research, one still experiences racism. Racism is alive and well, despite our academic advancement and movement within

middle-income status. Almost daily, we revisit how we have constructed the paradigm of being

Black American professional women. Sometimes our pains and experiences are so deep that at the

end of the conversation we try to think of something to make us laugh and usually it is the usage of words like, “That’s your cousin, girl.”For example, my sister observed a wealthy client (who visited a medical facility) request that their medical service be provided by White only staff. The request was honored. I laughed and exclaimed, “Girl so, they ain’t recognizing yo “D” huh?” We

both fell into insurmountable laughter.

In turn, I relayed to her how one of my White students asked, “How did you learn to speak like

dat?” The student was referring to my usage of Standard English and the ability to code switch.

Our laughter reflects our understanding that deep and soul filled laughter is therapeutic and helps to relieve the stress of the day.

When injustices seem too unbearable, one often uses music to illustrate “You gotta hurt before

you heal” (Bland, 1989) and I add that hurting and healing takes time. In the Black experience, music and laughter provide opportunities to release, express, and temporarily remedy frustration and stressors. Dialogue, music, and laughter enable people of color to maneuver within the game of politics, for if one does not learn to play the political game he/she will surely be played by politics. It is equally important to know that many things that exist as barriers, must often be left alone if the time for removing these barriers is not right. Quite often, issues should be left alone until the appropriate amount of ammunition for engaging in battle is available to the aggrieved to ensure that he or she has a strong case. For example, if an aggrieved faculty member is filing a grievance against an administrator, the faculty person needs to ensure that necessary

documentation has been submitted in a timely manner and in accordance with university policy.

In the hit song "The Gambler," Kenny Rogershas this advice for listeners and I share it as metaphor for African Americans and other historically underrepresented people attempting to

thrive in chaotic situations:

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,Know when to walk away and know

when to run.You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

Summary and Implications

This short chapter has many implications for school districts that are committed to supporting the success and effectiveness of school principals in the 21st century. Although the transformational leadership models embody collaboration and strategic planning for moving from a simple

instructional design to incorporating first and second order changes, the facilitative leadership might be more appropriate for principals of color. This model includes the behaviors that embrace the collective ability of the school principals to adapt, solve problems, and improve performance.

Facilitative leadership includes behavior that helps the school achieve goals that may be shared, negotiated or complemented (Murphy & Louis, 2001). In addition, resources such as Skills for Successful 21st Century School Leaders (Hoyle, 2005) are recommended for districts seeking to

prepare skilled leaders. This resource envelopes practical approaches to establishing relationships with culturally diverse constituencies, formulating policies for bonds, facilitating site-base

decision making, gathering and analyzing data, and implementing futuristically focused staff

development. In addition, the following ideals are recommended in preparing principals from

historically underrepresented groups. The ideals are supported by culturally responsive proverbs.

Knowledge is like a garden. When it is not cultivated it cannot be harvested. -Guinea

Perhaps learning academies that promote the richness of the education profession should be

introduced as early as the middle school and high school years. The church, as an organization, has long been the icon of social and economic progress for the Black community. In this light, the church as an organization, as well as the school community, should be considered in developing

partnerships to hone and develop interest in the profession. Principals in training need to be

guided to look at how they problem solve from a personal and cultural perspective. They also need to learn how and why other cultural groups may problem solve differently. This knowledge and

understanding about problem solving, better equips the principal for effective organizational

leadership and decision making. A Louisiana middle school principal addresses why

understanding problem solving within a cultural dynamic is important.

I had a student who had been retained twice. This kid had a big truancy problem. But, he was

excellent with anything and everything technologically. He was always helping teachers to fix a problem with computers. One day, the student asked me what I was doing for the Spring Break. I

told him I was relaxing and visiting family in Atlanta. He asked me what I do to relax. I responded that I enjoy listening to music. He said, “What kind of music do you like?” I said, “All kinds.” He responded, “I am going to hook you up.”

The following day he returned with a big sloppy grin on his face and placed a backpack in front me. Music had been (highly likely) improperly downloaded ranging from R&B and old school, to spirituals and gospel. He had attached printed labels and titles of cds. All cds were organized by author. He said, "How did you like it?” I smiled and said, “You did this for me? He said, “You’re a pretty cool principal. We want to help you too.” I smiled and made sure that I said, “Thanks for helping me to relax.”

Now, I could have inquired how he had acquired all of these cds and called his parents. I did not do this. He offered me a chance to see where his talents lie. I pray that he will finish school and seek a career in computers. I am sure encouraging him. Whether I see my kids in Walmart or

church. I make certain that I am encouraging them. A principal’s job is 24-7.

And yet another principal in Mississippi described issues of problem solving like this:

You know, our students overall don’t do well on highstakes test. I believe

one problem with their ability to do well on analytical and logical reasoning tests is due to the fact that they solve questions from a Black cultural context.

Another paradox for our children is the cultural dynamic of behavior at home and the school

culture that dictates that you act in another way. Take Zero Tolerance.You may have a Zero

Tolerance Rule in your district. You can’t fight or you are kicked out of school. Well, here is a kid whose father tells him don’t pick on other kids but if they pick on you, I expect you to kick butt.

Don’t be a wussy. So, what message are we, at school and at home, sending the kid? I’ll tell you what we are doing. We are sending that kid mixed messages. The kid doesn’t know what to do.

These actions carry over to how we problem solve on higher cognitive and intellectual issues also.

It takes a village. -Sioux and Ibo

Educational managers for school districts may find it necessary to incorporate supportive resource systems that contribute to principals of color participating in professional organizations (i.e.

National Association of Secondary School Principals [NASSP]; American Association of School

Administrators [AASA]; Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, [ASCD]) that

include people from culturally diverse backgrounds. At the same time, principals of colors should not be trapped by historic divisions between races and genders and make the decision to interact with groups that solely match their own racial heritage.

No one person’s success is attributed to his or her actions alone. It takes the support from others to be successful. Principals need to acquire the attitude and behavior of "win-win" relationships; that is, relationships that are supportive amongst and between school constituents. These kinds of

relationships help to establish networking ties.

Furthermore, school districts should ensure that principals are trained through principal institutes, forums, seminars, and professional development hours. And, these programs should entail

mentoring programs specifically designed for historically underrepresented groups.

Though many principals in this chapter chose to operate without the support of a mentor, this is ill-advised. Principals should undergo mentoring and training to ensure the most effective

development of leadership skills. School leaders set the tone of the culture by carefully choosing the people with whom they surround themselves, by communicating a sense of purpose for the

organization, and by reinforcing appropriate behavior. The manner in which school leaders

interact and participate within the community, greatly influence their success as a leader. When support is lacking for principals of color, their success and effectiveness is greatly impeded.

Blessed are they who are pleased with themselves (South Africa)

Most principals encounter many variables including issues of race and health. They find coping

through music, humor, nature, and laughter. School districts should offer retreats that include workshops that focus on music, humors, nature, and laughter. Retreat locations should be carefully selected. School district organizers must not assume that because “political correctness” is the modern coined term that people are not emotionally riveted by retreat locations such as plantation sites. A part of the retreat agenda should acknowledge that most principals of color identify with a cultural heritage that has once been oppressed hence, it is important for that oppression to be acknowledged and then identity where that oppression links to many barriers they may currently


For example, Black principals need to acquire an understanding of their school cultures by first asking, “What is my purpose within this organization?” Secondly, one must ask, “Is my purpose

aligned with the organization’s?” The answers and understanding include knowing how, when and

where paradigm construction and shifting becomes necessary. Furthermore, the dynamics of the

work environment can create anger among those who believe that they are being disenfranchised

and anger can be good if it is empowering. But being labeled as “mad” (rather than angry) or

“lacking collegiality” connotes irrational behavior and this, in itself, is not good and reflects TGC.

Some situations need to be challenged and some need to be left alone until the time is right for addressing; for to act in haste often makes waste. Black principals often need to take time away from the work situation. This may be particularly difficult for principals working in rural areas in the South where the culture often espouses an extremely strong dawn to dusk work ethic. Often,

when principals do not adhere to this ethic, principals may believe that their constituents believe that their time away from the office insinuates idleness. Rather than idleness, more importantly, they should consider times for revival, reflection, and rejuvenation away from the office as

“mental health days” (MHD). The paradigm reconstruction of revitalization, reflection, and

rejuvenation is healthy rather that the paralyzing construct of idleness.

Principals need to get in touch with themselves and their surroundings. A drive away from the

suburbs and inner city, a walk on the beach, meditate, jog in the woods, sit by the water, and talk to wise Big Mamma (she need not have a degree to possess wisdom) or a professional elder

“dean” who broke the ice long before your arrival thus making your professional presence

possible. School administrators and their principals of color need to understand (in theory and practice) spirituality, support groups, shifting, and paradigm reconstruction, Two Gotcha

Handicap, and humor. Black principals in the postmodern era must teach these terms to future

educators and principals for they too, must learn to analyze and interpret within their paradigm and the paradigm of others how to know when to “hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to

walk away, and know when to run.”

Each one Teach one (Diaspora)

Lastly, the diversity of our schools is upon us. Principals in the new millennium enhance the

texture of their leadership success by listening and interacting with faculty and students from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Mentors not only experience an honor to serve but

mentoring can be a powerful indicator that the school values a mentor’s skills and abilities to lead and share with others (Playko, 1995). In this light, the mentoring can increase the mentor’s self-esteem (Czaja & Owens, 1999). Another intrinsic value of mentoring is the feeling of having a potential impact on the future of educational leadership (Milstein, 1993, Daresh & Playko, 1992).

Galbnüth and Cohen (1995) noted that mentors and mentees have reported that mentoring is a

highly satisfying and rewarding as it fosters a cohesiveness within the organization while

encouraging the complete development of each individual by facilitating growth of personal

development. The willingness of both people to invest their time, energy, emotions and

themselves in an agreement to work together can result in shared personal enhancement, growth,

and satisfaction, as well as improved communications.

Mentoring programs that engage both practicing and retired school administrators can be mutually beneficial as a programmatic effort that affirms self-worth and acceptance. Moreover, the

diversity of the mentee’s and mentor’s backgrounds and approaches enrich the process of

discovery, the ways of thinking about solving problems, and the multiple modes of

communicating ideas. Therefore a comfort level with difference, as well as flexibility to learn in various ways, must emanate from the organization of schools.


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