Gunslinger School Administrators:Nontraditional Leadership in Urban School Systems in the United States
AbstractEducators, political leaders, and the public in the United States share a broad consensus that school systems in the larger urban areas are not meeting the educational needs of the children they are charged to serve. The result has been a virtual explosion in alternative reform strategies. In one fascinating example, some cities have consciously decided to recruit a school CEO or superintendent whose professional backgrounds lie entirely outside of the sphere of public education. We liken these education outsiders, these nontraditional school system leaders, to the “gunslinger” of American frontier mythology, the stranger, like Shane, who rides into town and solves a menacing problem that the townsfolk cannot manage themselves. This article explores the gunslinger phenomenon in public education leadership by describing it, specifying the conditions under which cities resort to this sort of reform, and exploring its implications for public education.