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Strange,
Johnson, Showalter, & Klein (2012) in association with the Rural School and
Community Trust and MCREL (2012), states that in the United States 56% of all
school districts are considered rural with 32% of those rural school districts
being public schools. McRel (2012) data also states that 19 to 25% of all
students in the United States attend rural schools. Therefore, rural schools
comprise an important piece of the pie in our nation’s public schools
(nces.ed.gov/surveys/ruraled/). The number of rural schools is contingent on the
definition used to define rural areas and schools; however, the definition of
rural is ambiguous, since its meaning tends to vary with the perspective of the
defining individual (Wallin & Sackney, 2003). McLaughlin, Huberman, and
Hawkins (1997) noted that in 1993/94, nearly half of the regular public school
districts in the U.S. were rural, and about 8,000 of the nation’s 84,000 public
schools were classified as both small and rural.

One
study published by MCREL 92011) suggested the number of students who attend
rural schools in the U.S. ranges between 1.1 and 11.6 million (Arnold et al.,
2004). Another paper published by MCREL (Arnold, 2004) found that about 7.2
million students attended school in a rural community with a population of
2,500 or less in 2001. More recent research by Strange, Johnson, Showalter, and
Klein (2012) and MCREL (2012) states that there are 11,251,481 students who are
considered rural. In that 20 number are 7,757 rural school districts, 31,026
rural schools, and 858,000 students. With those numbers, Strange, Johnson,
Showalter, and Klein (2012) state that 56% of the school districts in the
United States are rural with 32% of those being public schools.

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Expectations
of rural superintendents are similar to those of urban and suburban district
leaders, yet the expectations from various factions are exceptionally high for
rural superintendents (Sharp et al., 2001). These rural leaders must be special
individuals. Today’s rural administrators need to be able to communicate well
with staff, teachers, students, parents, and community members. In a survey of
rural school board presidents, respondents listed desirable traits of rural
superintendents that included honesty, integrity, good moral character, and
good personality (Kennedy & Barker, 1987). In other words, rural
superintendents must be 25 special leaders, and in some cases, miracle workers
in order to face the many obstacles that may come their way.

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