Date of Award

Spring 3-16-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Phil Pendley, EdD

Second Advisor

George Giokaris, EdD

Third Advisor

Jonathan Greenberg, EdD


Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative and illustrative multiple case study was to identify and describe succession planning strategies utilized by six K-12 California public school districts of 1,000 to 10,000 enrollment that have experienced superintendent transitions within the previous 3 years during three stages—Prepare, Pivot, Thrive—of executive succession and transition management (Adams, 2006).

Methodology: The population consisted of 1,022 districts with a target population of 213 districts. Participants (superintendents, cabinet members, board members) were chosen through purposive and convenience sampling.

Findings: Five common themes emerged: (a) communication, (b) seeking input, (c) relationship-building, (d) strategic planning, and (e) stabilizing the district. In contrast, common themes by role and stage include: Superintendents: (a) relationship-building, (b) communication, (c) strategic planning, (d) seeking input, (e) research, and (f) balancing work in 2 districts. Cabinet members: (a) communication, (b) relationship-building, (c) stabilizing the district, (d) strategic planning, (e) managing change, and (f) seeking input. Board members: (a) seeking input, (b) communication, (c) showing support, (d) relationship-building, (e) strategic planning, and (f) managing change.

Conclusions: The study identified strategies consistently used across all roles and stages. However, different roles identified unique strategies per transition stage. Superintendent succession planning should include strategies used collaboratively during the Thrive stage.

Recommendations: Future research is recommended on the impact of succession planning on superintendent tenure, case studies on experiences of cabinet/board members during transitions, nexus of board elections and superintendent transitions, replication of the study on principals and qualitative studies on the role of the outgoing superintendents.