Social Media Use by Arizona K-12 Public Unified School District Superintendents

Session Description
In the past, public unified school district superintendents have been traditionally thought of as the only gatekeepers of school district information and communication. Leadership was a top down approach with the superintendent being the sole proprietor or gatekeeper of information coming in and going out of a district. With the integration of social media into public school districts, two–way communication is common due to the addition of multiple parties exchanging information including feedback to the district. The study provided evidence of how K-12 public unified school district superintendents are now using a distributive type leadership style that has them collaborating with staff and stakeholders as multiple gatekeepers of information and resultant communication.

This mixed methods exploratory study utilized a group of Arizona K-12 public unified school district superintendents as a lens into their professional careers and personal lives with respect to their use or non-use of social media. The research showed that social media, in general, can be a beast of almost unmanageable proportions, and when you add in using tools in cyberspace in a public school district, multiple gatekeepers have additional challenges such as funding or lack thereof, school board policies and procedures, populations of minors with access to Internet websites and few filters, barriers to use, transparency and accountability expectations from constituents such a parents, a void of professional development, freedom of speech choices, and the superintendent’s personal communication philosophies. The purpose of the study was to identify lessons learned that addressed these challenges for both professional and personal use of social media by active Arizona K-12 public unified school district superintendents. Beneficial lessons learned were produced by 23 survey respondents and 6 interview participants.

This study filled some voids existing in current literature for information regarding social media use among K-12 superintendents in public unified school districts both professionally and personally. The material also contributed to professional development for school leaders, staff, and stakeholders. Future research will identify additional advantages, consequences, and enhanced uses of social media.

The majority of superintendents agreed that social media should be used as a tool that delivered positive messages that showcased their district and their careers. These educational leaders acknowledged that they were non-traditional gatekeepers of school communication. They had assistance in disseminating, monitoring, and receiving information through social media. Personal use of social media should be discreet or not at all. They learned that the public researched and spread information about them both through public and private social media domains.

Mary Dereshiwsky
Mary Dereshiwsky, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ , USA
Joan Henry
Joan Henry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA
Walter Delecki
Walter Delecki, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA
Frances Riemer
Frances Riemer, Northern Arizona University, USA
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