RURAL AFRICAN AMERICAN ADMINISTRATOR CAREER TRAJECTORIES

A Dissertation
by
RHODENA TOWNSELL

Submitted to the Whitlowe R. Green College of Education
Prairie View A&M University
In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

JANUARY 2009

Major Subject: Educational Leadership

ABSTRACT

Rural African American Administrators Career Trajectories
(January 2009)
Rhodena Townsell: B.A.T., Sam Houston State University
M.Ed., Sam Houston State University
Chair of Advisory Committee: William Allan Kritsonis, Ph.D.

The purpose of this study was to describe factors that influence the career trajectories of
rural African American administrators. These administrators are role models to many individuals
(Nganga & Kambutu, 2005). However, there has been sparse research concerning their unique
experiences. Literature suggests that aspiring school leaders may gain insight from the
experiences of others that will result in a better understanding of the diverse career pathways
leading to successful school administration (Crenshaw, 2004). The findings of this study provide
information and guidance to African American educators desiring to become rural
administrators.
Research questions guiding the study were:
1.

What childhood and academic experiences, including encouragements and barriers,
influence the career pathways of rural African American administrators?

2.

What work experiences, including encouragements and barriers, influence the career
pathways of rural African American administrators?

3.

What characteristics of rural African American administrators appear to influence their
career pathways?

The conceptual framework for this research study was based on parts of Theodore
Kowalski’s research on minority administrators (2003), The Career Choice Model of Betz and
Fitzgerald (Manuel & Slate, 2003) and Critical Race Theory (Delgado & Stefanic, 2000). The
target population for this qualitative descriptive study was African American administrators who
have worked for rural Texas public schools. Snowball sampling yielded seventeen experts. These
administrators were nominated by officials of the 20 Texas Education Service Centers and the
Texas Alliance of Black School Educators (TABSE). Seven members of this population
consented to participate in the study. The emerging themes were: (DIRECT) Determination to
Do Well, Isolated, Yet Rurally Connected, Enduring, Communicators of Discipline, and Trusting
in the Will of God.

DEDICATION
To my
Grandpa, Ethridge Townsell, you always encouraged me, the youngest grandchild, by
saying, “I’m wide awake and full of fun, scared to death, but I won’t run!” Grandpa, you
attended college. You told me that I would also attend college, and I did. You told me that once I
had an education, no one could take it away from me, and no one can. Sir, you have been gone
since 1984 and I miss your wisdom. You are one of the finest men that I have ever known. In our
rural community, your ways were known and respected by African Americans and Caucasians
alike. You were a fair farmer who took care of family, business, community, and church. Thank
you for your love and legacy!
Father, Ervin Townsell, you were always kind to me. I was your only baby and you took
the time to play learning games with me. You helped me realize the joy of reading at an early
age. Sir, you modeled genuine respect for others as you endured many of life’s trials with
decorum. Daddy, you left me long before your death in the year 2000. Alzheimer’s disease
robbed us of many family pleasures but nothing can diminish your gifts to me. Thank you for
your love and kindness!
Son, Ethridge Christopher Townsell Brooks, my only baby, you are my greatest love!
You arrived in 1995, but I loved you long before I saw your face! Sir, God blessed me to become
your mother. “For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of
Him (I Samuel 27:1).” I am proud of my, six foot tall, age 13, Eagle Scout. “Trust in the Lord
with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).” Thank you for your love and patience!

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, my advisory committee chair, you recognized me as a
person with a voracious appetite for elephant. I caught your contagious energy on the day of my
interview in the spring of 2006 and it has propelled me until this day. Your encouragement to
write for publication was the perfect appetizer! Sir, I shall be eternally grateful to you! Thank
you!
Dr. Robert Marshall, you were technology personified! Your portions of the elephant
were served up quickly. The use of technology to network, retrieve, and store information has
proven to be invaluable. Thank you!
Dr. Douglas Hermond, your research classes were the grandest portions of the elephant!
Your creative exercises and examples aided my understanding and appreciation for the art of
research. Your brilliance, patience, and humor were greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Dr. David Herrington, you painted a realistic picture of strategic planning. I crafted a
personal plan during my first class with you and this tool helped me divide the elephant into
manageable portions. Thank you!
Dr. Tanner, you were the voice of cultural sensitivity. Your passion for the ideals of
cultural diversity renewed my awareness, gave me new words, and evoked my desire for a
deeper understanding. You helped me season the elephant to taste. Thank you!
Dr. Camille Gibson, you were the consummate professional. Your desire for perfection
was inspirational. Your meticulous editing helped me select the best portions of the elephant for
consumption. I am altogether better for knowing you! Thank you!
Dr. Collins, your support was professional, strong, and unwavering. You helped me
frame answers to the critical aspects of the study and clean my plate. Thank you!

Miss Mary Green, Mrs. C. LaNette Hill, Col. and Mrs. James Wallace,
Mr. and Mrs. Gary Bladen, Sr., Mr. Glenn Guderian, Mr. Prince Fite, Mrs. Norma Nash,
Mrs. Shirley Savell Kustiner, Mrs. Patricia Scholz, Mrs. Laverne Oxley, Mrs. Glenda Blair,
Mr. and Mrs. James D. Vinson, Mr. Larry Krumnow, Ms. Karen Richter, Mr. Keith W. Smith,
Mr. David Stiver, Mr. Jerry Cole, Mrs. Helen Jones, Mrs. Bernice Holiday, Mrs. Ann Sandles,
Mrs. Corene Sandles, Mrs. Rita Slaughter Davis, Mrs. Margie Green, Dr. Mary Alice Kritsonis,
Dr. James Laub, Dr. Dorothy Benson, Mr. I. C. (Dusty) Rhodes, Mrs. Sandra Rhodes,
Mrs. Leah Barnes, Mrs. E. Boozer, Mrs. Cathy Lagrone Nichols, Mrs. Rae L. Williamson,
Mrs. Pearl Adkisson Townsell, Mrs. Ollie Townsell Fortson, Mrs. Ida Fletcher Townsell,
Mrs. Diamond Perry Townsell, Mrs. Betty Jo Townsell Evans, Miss Katherine Townsell,
Mrs. Fessie Lacey, Mrs. L. Goffney, Mrs. L. Craig, Mr. W. Hawkins, Mr. M. Giles,
Mr. R. Holloway, Mrs. Jo Beth Batson, Mrs. Rebeca Reyes, Mrs. Donna McKenzie,
Mrs. Janel Jones, Mrs. Sarah Swicegood, Ms. Helen Thorington, Mr. David DeBrock,
Miss Esther Palomino, Mr. John Vinson, Mrs. Veronica Grooms, Mrs. Sue Farris,
Mrs. Barbara B. Brooks, Dr. Hunter O. Brooks, Mrs. Desiree Skinner,
Dr. Margaret Curette Patton, PVAMU Cohort III, and MES your support, listening ears, and
sound advice sustained me through troubling times. Thank you for your care and compassion!
Finally, I thank God for allowing me to pen the experiences of seven of the finest African
American administrators in the state of Texas! Each of you is an inspiration to me and a blessing
to many others! I will continue to pray for your peace, joy, and success as we continue to be
trusting in the will of God. “God is good all of the time. All of the time, God is good!” Thank
you for your help!

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
ABSTRACT ................................................................................................................................... iii
DEDICATION .................................................................................................................................v
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ........................................................................................................... vi
TABLE OF CONTENTS............................................................................................................. viii
LIST OF TABLES ......................................................................................................................... xi
CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION .....................................................................................................1
Statement of the Problem .....................................................................................................7
Purpose of the Study ............................................................................................................7
Research Questions ..............................................................................................................8
Conceptual Framework ........................................................................................................8
Significance of the Study ...................................................................................................10
Assumptions.......................................................................................................................11
Limitations of the Study.....................................................................................................11
Delimitations of the Study .................................................................................................12
Definition of Terms............................................................................................................12
Organization of the Study ..................................................................................................14
CHAPTER II. REVIEW OF LITERATURE ...............................................................................15
African Americans and Public Schools .............................................................................15
Critical Race Theory ..........................................................................................................17
Racial Identity and Career Developments .........................................................................18
viii

Rural School Challenges ....................................................................................................20
Experiences and Characteristic of African American Educators .......................................25
Themes from Literature .....................................................................................................35
Research Questions ............................................................................................................37
Summary ............................................................................................................................37
CHAPTER III. METHOD ...........................................................................................................39
Research Questions ............................................................................................................40
Research Design.................................................................................................................40
Population and Sample ......................................................................................................40
Instrumentation and Pilot Study.........................................................................................41
Validity and Reliability ......................................................................................................52
Data Collection ..................................................................................................................53
Data Analysis .....................................................................................................................53
Summary ............................................................................................................................56
CHAPTER IV. ANALYSIS OF DATA ........................................................................................58
Introduction ........................................................................................................................58
Response Rate ....................................................................................................................58
Demographics ....................................................................................................................61
Field Journal Notes ............................................................................................................72
Data Reduction...................................................................................................................75

ix

Research Questions
Research Question One ..........................................................................................85
Research Question Two .........................................................................................86
Research Question Three .......................................................................................91
Summary of the Chapter ....................................................................................................92
CHAPTER V. SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS ..................................97
Summary of Study .............................................................................................................97
Summary of the Findings .................................................................................................100
Conclusions ......................................................................................................................100
Implications......................................................................................................................105
Recommendations from the Study...................................................................................109
Recommendations for Further Research ..........................................................................109
REFERENCES ............................................................................................................................110
APPENDIXES.............................................................................................................................117
Appendix A - Letter to Study Participants .......................................................................118
Appendix B - Letter of Permission ..................................................................................148
Appendix C - Interview Instrument .................................................................................152
Appendix D – Transcriptions ...........................................................................................155
Appendix F - IRB Approval ............................................................................................186
VITA ............................................................................................................................................189

x

LIST OF TABLES
Table ....................................................................................................................................... Page
3.1

Themes from Literature Data Code Chart .........................................................................55

4.1

Rural African American Administrator Population by Gender .........................................60

4.2

African American Administrators per Geographical Location ..........................................60

4.3

School District 1 ................................................................................................................61

4.4

School District 2 ................................................................................................................62

4.5

School District 3 ................................................................................................................63

4.6

School District 4 ................................................................................................................64

4.7

School District 5 ................................................................................................................65

4.8

School District 6 ................................................................................................................66

4.9

School District 7 ................................................................................................................67

4.10

School District 8 ................................................................................................................68

4.11

Teacher Turnover ...............................................................................................................69

4.12

Percentages of African American Students, Professional Staff and Administrators .........70

4.13

Salary Averages .................................................................................................................71

4.14

Sample Administrators by Job Assignment .......................................................................72

4.15

Comparison of the Number of years in Education and to the Number of
Years in Administration .....................................................................................................78

xi

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