Changing district priorities for school-business collaboration: Superintendent agency and capacity for institutionalization

Jeffrey V. Bennett, Hugh C. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: School district superintendents continue to favor collaborative relationships with their local business communities amid concerns over free-market competition, maintaining public legitimacy, and scarce financial resources. Prior research is inadequate regarding the development, implementation, and institutionalization of school and business collaboration, with respect to current institutional and market pressures, and the unique contributions of superintendents. Purpose: The purpose was to examine the superintendent's role in the development and institutionalization of school and business partnerships in a district without prior history of collaborative relationships and to assess capacity for sustainability. Setting: A medium-sized (12,850 students) metropolitan-area school district in the U.S. Southwest that also includes one local chamber of commerce was the setting. Participants: Two district superintendents (transition in leadership occurred), a chamber of commerce CEO, and 13 other school district officials and business leaders (i.e., principals, chamber members, partnership coordinator) directly involved in partnerships or providing administrative oversight participated. Research Design: Qualitative case study was the research design. Data Collection and Analysis: Data were obtained using semistructured interviews, observations, and document analysis. A conceptual model for developing business partnerships and neo-institutionalism theory guide this qualitative analysis. Findings: Superintendent agency and district capacity for action (i.e., lack of professional development, departure of key roles, overdependency on myth and ceremony) both enabled and constrained partnership development, implementation, and capacity for institutionalization in the context of current institutional and market pressures. Conclusions: This study demonstrates the complimentary usefulness of the conceptual model and neo-institutionalism theory for studying leadership of school district and business partnerships and building school and community capacity for educational change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)826-868
Number of pages43
JournalEducational Administration Quarterly
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • community partnerships
  • institutional theory
  • leadership
  • neo-institutionalism
  • school and business partnerships
  • superintendents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Administration


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