Date of Award

Spring 2000

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Urban Education

Committee Director

Jane M. Hager

Committee Member

William C. Cunningham

Committee Member

Wolgang Pindur

Committee Member

Petra Snowden

Committee Member

Donna B. Evans


This study examined the 19-year tenure of Dr. E. E. Brickell, superintendent of the Virginia Beach City School System. Specifically, the study has further developed an understanding of the role, expectations, and challenges of the position to identify factors that contributed to Dr. Brickell's tenure longevity.

The literature review conducted in this study revealed that specific factors contributing to a long tenure (more than 2.5 years) for a superintendent is inconclusive. The available data suggest that an interaction of political, environmental, and individual factors could effect the length of a superintendent's tenure.

A qualitative research design was used in this study. The design itself was unique in that it allowed this researcher to conduct a power structure study of the organization and a personal account of Dr. Brickell's superintendency through the life story interview method. The methods for data collection were interviews with 40 participants, a life story interview with Dr. Brickell, and a document review of the public press and public minutes.

Findings indicated that the role of the superintendent has not drastically changed since the turn of the century. The environmental factors on the position of the superintendent have contributed to heightened community expectations for the superintendent causing short tenure. Internal and external factors for Dr. Brickell's tenure longevity are documented and compared to current research findings about superintendent tenure.

Highlights from this study indicate a need for the superintendent and the school division to create a unity of purpose for the educational system that is congruent with the needs and the desires of the community. Dr. Brickell had the unique ability to fight for the issues and marshal the support of the school division employees, the school board, and the community to build a school division that accomplished a unity of purpose. He did so by clarifying the issues that faced the educational system and establishing policies and programs to address those issues.

Implications from this research as to the effect of the community on superintendent tenure are explicit. Recommendations are made for both the community and the superintendent for longevity.


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