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Challenges and Changes in the Role of Superintendent of Nebraska's Small Rural Schools

Travis W Miller, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The contemporary issues study explored the challenges and changes experienced by superintendents in Nebraska’s small, rural schools. 181/245 (74%) of school districts in Nebraska in 2016 were small and rural. The literature suggests that there are differences between the challenges of leadership in small rural schools as compared to leadership in suburban and urban schools. Much of the literature on school leadership is related to suburban and urban schools. This study was conducted to explore the challenges and changes in the role of the small rural school superintendent in Nebraska. This qualitative study consisted of interviews of twenty-nine school superintendents who were actively employed in school districts that received federal REAP (Rural Education Achievement Program) funding. These schools are located in rural geographic areas and serve fewer than 600 students. The study explored the challenges and changes in the role of the superintendent of Nebraska’s small rural schools. Findings included insights into the lived experiences of superintendents in Nebraska’s small rural schools, challenges experiences by superintendents, strategies utilized to minimize the challenges of the superintendency of small rural schools, changes anticipated by participants in the small rural school superintendency, and participant recommendations for preparation and support of superintendents in small rural schools. The study found seven major challenges experienced by superintendents in small rural schools in Nebraska. These challenges are a demanding position, financial challenges, political challenges, staffing and personnel issues, board relations, providing opportunities for students, and enrollment and demographics. The study found seven anticipated changes in the future role of superintendent of Nebraska’s small rural schools. These anticipated changes are financial challenges, changing superintendency skills, political environment, difficulty staffing small rural schools, rural populations, additional responsibilities, and mandates for reporting and accountability.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|School administration|Education|Education history

Recommended Citation

Miller, Travis W, "Challenges and Changes in the Role of Superintendent of Nebraska's Small Rural Schools" (2017). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10268639.