AUSTIN (KXAN) — Politics is the top reason superintendents are stressed out, according to a recent report by the RAND Corporation, a non-partisan research group.

“The RAND Corporation did a pretty comprehensive study showing that we’re having the highest turnover rate that we’ve ever had in district leaders,” Doug Roberts, the CEO of the Institute for Education Innovation, said. The group said it is striving to empower superintendents nationwide.

“This is not the job they signed up for 20 years ago. It was a very different role then than it is today,” Roberts said.

The report found the turnover of superintendents nationally increased to 17% in 2022–2023 from 13-14% prior to and at the beginning of the pandemic in 2019.

“They didn’t necessarily sign up to be involved in political arguments between one group and another group in a community. And for that reason, a lot of people are saying, ‘you know what, this is not for me,’” Roberts said.

The research further found 88% of superintendents identified “the intrusion of political issues and opinions into schooling” as a source of stress in their job. Still, a majority of education leaders said the job is worth the stress.

Roberts hopes superintendents will focus on their successes but not ignore the root of their stress.

“Our position is, if you want to do this work, you got to be able to engage in these political discussions because that’s how we can best support students. But that doesn’t mean we should get involved in the partisanship of it,” Roberts said.

Austin ISD superintendent search

The Austin Independent School District is in the process of finding a full-time superintendent. In March, the district voted to extend the contract for interim Superintendent Mathias Segura until June 2024.

Segura replaced interim Superintendent Anthony Mays, who left in January 2023 for the full-time superintendent role at Alief ISD near Houston.

Mays was chosen as Austin ISD interim superintendent in June 2022 after Stephanie Elizalde left for Dallas ISD. Elizalde held the full-time role for two years.