A Qualitative Analysis Of Middle School Principal Retention In An Urban School District
Cyrus, Barry S.
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The issue of principal retention remains a challenge for many school districts across the United States. Several studies have revealed alarming statistics regarding principal turnover and attrition and the negative effects these issues have on schools (Browne-Ferrigno & Johnson-Fusarelli, 2005; Clark et al., 2009; Partlow & Ridenour, 2008; Stoelinga et al., 2008; Walker & Qian, 2006; Whittal, 2002). Data show that the annual financial burden principal replacement places on these school districts is enormous (School Leaders Network, 2014); not to mention the tremendous effect that principal turnover has on school operations. Consistent school leadership is essential to the successful operation of schools. Evidence indicates that principals are the most importance catalysts for change in the school building—they spark academic success among students, improve working conditions, and encourage teacher retention (Beteille et al., 2012; Burkhauser, 2015; Johnson, 2006; Leithwood et al., 2006; McIver et al., 2009). This qualitative study examined the unique sociocultural, pedagogical, and personal factors that influence middle school principals’ decision to remain within a given school. Data were gathered from interviews with ten middle school principals with an average of 7.1 years in their position at the time of the study and a range of 2-14 years of experience as school leaders. Their tenure in the principalship far exceeded that of many middle school principals today. The study revealed that the participants’ decision to remain in their positions at the same schools for a prolonged period was influenced by several factors, including the socio-economic, racial, and ethnic composition of the student bodies; positive relationships with students, parents, and direct supervisors. Contrary to findings in other studies, the principals who participated in this inquiry truly enjoyed working with traditionally underserved populations. Additionally, most respondents viewed their work through an altruistic lens; genuinely valued their relationships with students, parents, and teachers; and approached each day with the perspective that each of these groups deserved the very best that the principals had to offer. Moreover, the participants consciously viewed students and their parents as a unit, and saw the family unit as a valuable stakeholder in the school building.