Book Review…Leading with Resolve and Mastery

May 25th, 2018 | Category: Book Reviews
By Kevin O'Mara

By Robert K. Wilhite, Daniel R. Tomal, Craig A. Schilling, and Jeffrey T. Brierton

Co-published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing and
AASA The School Superintendent Association, 2017
$32.00 Amazon books

The role of the public-school superintendent continues to evolve and change. What was at one time a simpler, more one-dimensional profession has become exponentially more complex. To be successful, the successful school leader has to wear many hats, many at the same time. These hats include that of instructional leader, curriculum and assessment expert, financial wizard, communications maven, goal-setter extraordinaire, collaborative specialist, resource manager, strategic planner, all the while being highly visible and approachable.

The authors have identified 12 core competencies that align with the role of the superintendent in today’s public-school environment. These competencies are derived from a wide variety of peer-reviewed journals, current data from the state and federal levels, and working with professionals across the United States in the current setting. The authors’ supposition is that mastery in these 12 core competencies will result in a high level of leadership capabilities for public school leaders or those aspiring to gain a role as superintendent.

The authors themselves bring a unique set of backgrounds to this research and these findings. All are in the profession of higher education, and all bring a variety of extensive public-school experiences to the table. Robert K. Wilhite, Ed.D. is currently Dean of the College of Graduate Studies at Concordia University Chicago (CUC). He also has served as superintendent, assistant superintendent, principal and teacher in a variety of public school settings. Jeffrey T. Brierton, Ph.D. is associate professor of Leadership at CUC. Formerly he was a public-school teacher, administrator and principal. Craig A. Schilling, Ed.D. is associate professor of Leadership at CUC, while also having served as a public school Chief School Business Official and as President of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials. Daniel R. Tomal, Ph.D. is a distinguished professor of Leadership at CUC and has published over twenty books and hundreds of scholarly articles. Also he was previously employed as a senior public-school administrator. It is clear that these authors write with authority and knowledge, both from their personal experiences and from existing research in the field.

The book is laid out in a fairly straight forward manner, introducing the core competencies and then writing about each of them chapter by chapter. The text itself introduces each chapter topic by aligning each objective to the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) and Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL) standards. This alignment allows easy access for coursework alignment for those colleges and universities choosing to use this book in a graduate school setting. The 12 competencies are school governance, school law, instructional leadership, resource management, vision leadership, change leadership, communication, strategic planning, school data management, community relations, diverse learner strategies and collaboration. These competencies are introduced, explained fully, then are followed with suggested discussion topics and questions. An intriguing element in each chapter is the addition of one or more case studies. These case studies are especially helpful for aspiring leaders to tackle with colleagues and professors in a classroom setting so as to gain confidence and assurance in the topic under review.

The real strength of the book is the identification of the core competencies and their thorough explanation for inclusion. These are clearly documented as to their need for the successful school leader, aligned with ELCC and PSEL standards, and are notable for the way discussion items, key questions and case studies are included so they can be thoroughly understood by the reader.

As an associate professor, former public-school superintendent, principal and instructor, I recommend this book for any reader ready to fully understand the new role of the public school superintendent. LEJ

Author Information

Kevin O’Mara is an Associate Professor in the Department of Leadership in the School of Graduate Studies, Concordia University Chicago after having just retired as Superintendent at Argo Community High School. He has been in education for thirty years as teacher, principal and Superintendent.