Date of Award

May 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Urban Education

First Advisor

Gail Schneider

Committee Members

Thomas Joynt, Latish Reed, Leigh Wallace, Kathryn Olson


High School Principals, Longevity, Mobility, Retention


This qualitative study explored the institutional factors, personal characteristics, and work-related relationships of high school principals that led to their longer than usual tenure in their positions. Data were gathered from interviews with ten high school principals who had served in their positions for a range of 8 to 23 years, much longer than many high school principals today.

Four major themes emerged from the data: relationships, balance, fit and change. Within the theme of relationships, relationships with the faculty and staff, district office and superintendent, school board, parents and community, and students were explored. Collaboration and trust were identified as sub-themes within this theme. The theme of balance included balancing the demands of the job, balancing the job and family life and responses to managing the multiple demands of work and home life. Fit included fit with the district and community and the fit of compensation for their work. The theme of change included subthemes of continuous improvement, instructional leadership, cultural changes, sustainability of change, socioeconomic factors and student achievement.

The study found that the decision to remain in one position for an extended period of time was influenced by a number of factors, including positive relationships with students, faculty and staff and their superintendents. The principals also enjoy the ability to initiate and carry out change efforts with direction for the goals provided from the district and the autonomy to develop and implement the approach to the change with their faculty and staff. Personally, these principals were positive, focused, goal-oriented individuals who distribute leadership among the staff and put student learning at the forefront of all they do in their buildings. They enjoy complexity and change and they cite a concern with losing their edge and focus on improvement as something they worry about.