Vogel, Linda R.
Cieminski, Amie B.
Larson, Milan D.
Lawrence, Jody K.
College of Education and Behavioral Sciences; Department of Leadership, Policy and Development: Higher Education and P-12 Education, Program of Education Leadership and Policy Studies
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
Schools with positive school climate demonstrate higher student achievement (Brookover et al., 1978; Johnson & Stevens, 2006; MacNeil, Prater, & Busch, 2009; Thapa, Cohen, Guffey, & Higgins-D’Alessandro, 2013) and principals contribute to creating a positive school climate (Allen, Grigsby, & Peters, 2015; Cohen, McCabe, Michelli, & Pickeral, 2009; McCarley, Peters, & Decman, 2016). However, principal turnover happens frequently, with nearly half of all principals leaving their position by their third year at the school (School Leaders Network, 2014). When there is a change in the school’s principal, both student achievement and the school’s climate can be negatively impacted (Béteille, Kalogrides, & Loeb, 2012; Gates et al., 2005; Miller, 2013). The aim of this study was to consider the question: Q1 What changes in a school’s climate do the staff in a Rocky Mountain high school perceive when a principal has been at a school for three years? In order to determine strategies, incoming principals can use to help mitigate the expected decline in student achievement that can occur when there is a principal turnover (Miller, 2013). This study used a qualitative case study methodology. A high school in a stable Rocky Mountain school district was selected due to their positive rating based on the state’s standardized assessment and because they had a principal turnover three years prior. Semistructured interviews with 14 staff members who had been at the school with both the previous principal and the current principal, as well as observations and documents, were used to analyze the perceived impact the incoming principal had on the climate of the school. Through the interviews, observations, and analysis of school documents, three themes emerged. The school climate change seemed to be most directly impacted by an increased focus on instructional practices, the principal’s leadership style, and the relationships he formed with staff members and the community. This research confirmed previous studies that the transformational leadership style promotes a positive school climate (Damanik & Aldridge, 2017; Engels, Hotton, Devos, Bouckenooghe, & Aelterman, 2008; McCarley et al., 2016) as over half of the staff members reported a positive school climate. However, even with a transformational leadership style, the school still experienced staff tension and division as the principal tried to implement changes that impacted the school’s climate. An increased focus on creating a shared vision as well as providing more opportunities for shared decision making might have helped to combat some of the staff division and frustration that was occurring (Johnson & Stevens, 2006; Mascall, Moore, Jantzi, Walker, and Sacks, 2011; McCarley et al., 2016).
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