Date of Award

1-31-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)

Department

Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Valeri R. Helterbran, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Crystal Machado, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Shirley A. Johnson, Ed.D.

Abstract

Our schools are considered a place of safety for learning, however, the unfortunate reality is that schools may face crises and violence. Leadership styles vary among school leaders and provide the framework for handling daily challenges. This mixed-methods research design was used to investigate the individual leadership styles of public school principals from twelve counties in southwestern Pennsylvania and their experiences with and preparedness for incidents of school violence. Quantitative data were collected using the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire, the Evaluation Survey for School Terrorism, and a brief demographic questionnaire. Using SPSS, descriptive statistics summarized the survey data and further data analysis used an independent-samples t-test to compare preparedness and leadership style. A statistical significance was not found between the two groups. Qualitative data were collected through personal interviews and provided descriptions of personal leadership styles, school violence experiences, preparedness for and effective leadership during crises. Although some interviewees stated no personal experience with an act of school violence, each understood the threat potential, the expectation to respond, and the unfortunate reality that may await them. From the data analysis, findings from the study revealed that building relationships is important for the general welfare of students and staff, that violent school incidents regardless of location have an effect on the general sense of preparedness for a similar event, and that school leader's leadership style affects the climate and culture of the school. When a school crisis occurs, the responsible, skilled, professional leadership in our schools is, and always will be, the first level of defense against any threat that has the potential to harm children. The conclusions confirm that schools are safe places. Leadership is the key.

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