Retaining principals in high poverty public schools




Dominguez, Angela, Ph. D.

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The turnover of school principals in high-poverty schools is having a profound impact on student achievement. Principal turnover influences teacher turnover, sustainability of school improvement efforts, and generates increased financial costs to the district. Research cites the demands of the job, increased accountability, and lack of support and compensation are all affecting the tenure and retention of principals (Fuller & Young, 2009). These factors were then compounded with the impact of the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic on schools and school leaders. Death, disease, school closure, food insecurities, and social isolation, are just some of the factors that have impacted schools around the world. There has been a disproportionate impact on high-poverty school districts and communities that school leaders are certainly feeling. In a recent article, DeMatthews, Carrola et al. (2021) stated as a result of the pandemic, “many principals will experience acute and chronic forms of work-related stress that can contribute to burnout and turnover” (p. 161). In addition to trying to thrive in a pandemic, the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas has intensified pressures on leaders to keep schools safe and maintain personal safety (DeMatthews & Mawhinney, 2014). While there are studies that identify why principals are leaving the role and the factors that are impeding retention, there is little research about how to retain principals for a longer period. The need for research in this area is more prevalent particularly in high poverty schools. In this qualitative study, I examined the perceptions and experiences of current and former school principals who serve or have served in high-poverty school districts. The study was designed to gain insights into the personal and organizational factors that contribute to their persistence as campus principals in these settings. This study provides important information about how leaders can address the principal turnover that is negatively impacting Texas public schools and aid in how superintendents and other leaders are prepared to help principals persist in these school districts.


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