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Ethnology study, Superintendent, Alberta schools, Leadership schools, Leading effectively, Alternative schools, Doctoral thesis

Profile of an Effective School Superintendent
by Dale Boddy


Ed Noyce, the informant or subject of this field study, was the Superintendent of the Wapiti Falls School District in 1994. Pseudonyms are used throughout his story, but he is real and so are the people, events, and locations herein. Why Ed Noyce? Ed was identified by an expert panel as an effective school superintendent.

Asked for his comments, the real Ed Noyce wrote: “I am also grateful to those staff members, school board members, and others who agreed to participate. It can be quite threatening to have an unknown observer attending meetings at which private feelings and opinions are being shared. Yet, to the best of my recollection, no one showed even the slightest hesitation having an unknown observer recording their every move. The researcher deserves much credit for the way he managed to put others at ease.”


Naturalistic observations were collected, digested, collated, and curated to provide a cultural portrait. The purpose was to better understand superintendent leadership.

Three key attributes common to all leaders—spending sufficient time on the job, focusing on key attributes of the organization’s mission, and respecting the individuals serving within the organization— were used and individualized for our informant.

Everyday encounters are described in detail. Follow along as Ed applied his core strengths and attributes in leading district staff, students, elected officials, and community. Leadership strategies are enumerated and validated in two case studies. In one, Ed and his district faced a crisis which tested elected officials, teachers, administrators, and finally Ed. Inner strengths were revealed; strengths attributed to work-life balance.

Leadership will always be complex. Hence no all-encompassing theory of leadership will be offered. In this cultural portrait the premises held to be true are threefold: watch, reflect, improve.

Dale Boddy photo

Dale Boddy was a successful school superintendent who sought to better understand leadership by becoming the shadow of one first-rate school superintendent.

Dale and his wife recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They are both retired and live in central Alberta. One daughter, one son, and their respective spouses are employed in various professional settings. Two granddaughters and two grandsons round out the family. Life is good.


Dale Boddy

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