Date of Award

January 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Pauline Stonehouse


Leading educational reform is one of a superintendent’s many roles, which involves working with elected school board members with varying beliefs of what constitutes educational reform. Superintendents accept this responsibility despite the considerable challenge that meaningful educational reform efforts take at least five years (Fullan & Stiegelbauer, 1991). The average stay of a superintendent in a school district is six and a half years, further complicating reform efforts (Glass & Franceschini, 2007). The purpose of the study was to better understand the factors that lead to the turnover of superintendents of K-12 schools in North Dakota.

The conceptual framework for this study was premised in the Push-Pull Career Movement Theory (Tekniepe, 2015) and the Dissatisfaction Theory of Democracy (Iannaccone and Lutz, 1970). The qualitative study involved utilizing Grounded Theory to understand the shared experiences of recently retired North Dakota superintendents. Ten superintendents were interviewed. Follow-up interviews were conducted as necessary. Data from the interviews were coded into categories, themes, and assertions.

The aim of this study was to better understand the push/pull factors that influenced a superintendent during his or her career and how these factors possibly influenced a superintendent to remain in a district or leave a district. The researcher then provided recommendations for superintendents, school board members, North Dakota Educational Leadership Programs, and North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

The result of the study from the ten participants’ shared experiences was the emergence of the Accelerated Leadership Departure Theory. The majority of participants chose to leave their position before they had intended and expressed that they were pushed out by stressors. The Accelerated Leadership Departure Theory best encapsulates the shared experiences and professional journey of the majority of the participants involved in this study.