School Administrator, June 2020
Women on a Plateau
Susan Enfield and Kristine Gilmore contributed an amazing article (“Women on a Plateau in the Superintendency
”) to your March issue. I thoroughly enjoyed it, then scanned a copy and sent it to several of my district’s female senior leaders who aspire to be superintendents.
Their article will positively change the trajectory of many female school administrators across the country who hope to serve in the superintendency. I hope they both understand the impact they are having on our profession. It is greatly appreciated.
TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT 214
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, ILL.
I was heartened and inspired to read Susan Enfield and Kristine Gilmore’s article
. The concept of who can “legitimately” lead a school district and how has been shaped to privilege white men and has long roots in the literature on the superintendency.
In 1916, Ellwood P. Cubberley published Public School Administration
, a seminal characterization of the role of the school superintendent. Cubberley’s definition of the major aspects of the work associated with that role still exerts great influence over the business of leading schools to this day.
“Dad” Cubberley, as he was known, was an early dean of the Stanford University School of Education who contributed significantly to defining the profession of school administration during this early period of the industrial age. Cubberley’s views were sentient in many ways. Much of what he defined still permeates the structure and process of leading public schools.
His views, however, were riddled with assumptions about the natural superiority of people like himself — white, male, Anglo-Saxon, native-born — and the American society they had shaped. In practical terms, the reforms he and his circle spurred helped ensure that women would largely remain the workers in a system managed by men.
In contrast, I’d invite readers to take a new account of one of Cubberley’s contemporaries, Ella Flagg Young, a scholar and educational leader who was highly influential on John Dewey. Active at the time of Cubberley’s 1916 publication, Young’s story is one of a far-reaching female leader and scholar who also advocated for the empowerment of teachers (who were largely women) and worked for democratic influence of women through the suffrage movement.
Notably, Young was the first female superintendent of a major U.S. school system (in Chicago), and she epitomizes an early example of the practitioner/scholar — someone who managed to contribute significantly both to conceptions of leadership and the practice of leadership.
Finally, as a white, male leader in our schools, I implore my white and male counterparts, who still dominate the leadership roles of most school systems in this country, to take Enfield and Gilmore’s article seriously. It’s way past time to actively disrupt the overtly white and male constructions of Cubberley’s original conceptions of who can do this work at high levels.
A moral responsibility exists to disrupt the “good ol’ boys club” that still permeates this profession and for men and women alike to find roles as advocates and allies for the women leaders we know and work with; to help ensure that the glass ceiling finally is torn down and that gender balance in the superintendency and other high-level leadership roles in America’s school systems will be realized.
MICHAEL A. COPLAND
BELLINGHAM PUBLIC SCHOOLS
What an outstanding article
, co-authored by my superintendent, Kristine Gilmore, on women and the superintendency. (I’ve known her since she was a student in my American history seminar in 1985.) She was destined early for a top leadership position in the community.
What she faced as a female district administrator is clearly outlined in the article, but nothing I really thought about until now. I was particularly surprised by how a community and the public hold females to a higher bar. Her comments about being seen at public functions and having community members question “who’s watching the kids?” really took me by surprise. That people would question why she was at her children’s school events rather than spending time working for the school district was simply shocking.
K-12 SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM COORDINATOR
D.C. EVEREST AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT
I was intrigued by the process of an equity audit that George Theoharis and his colleagues described in “Harvesting the Garden of an Equity Audit
” (February 2020), based on their work in the Syracuse, N.Y., City School District.
In working with my district team in Hornell, N.Y., I’ve developed an interest in conducting some type of self-assessment or audit of our practices and our people. I believe we have some issues relative to equity and bias that we haven’t really ever spoken about. As such, I plan to follow up with Theoharis to discuss how we might proceed.
HORNELL CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT
The preview box on the book reviews page in our print edition of the April issue incorrectly spelled the name of Jal Mehta, co-author of In Search of Deeper Learning
Letters should be addressed to: Editor, School Administrator
, 1615 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org