Date of Award

Summer 7-29-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Philip O. Pendley

Second Advisor

George S. Sziraki

Third Advisor

Jacqueline Kearns


Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study is to discover the factors which contribute to the positive transformation of a comprehensive public high school’s culture as perceived by the school’s administrators, teachers, and classified staff. An additional purpose of the study is to determine what similarities and differences exist between the perceptions of administrators, teachers, and classified staff.

Methodology: The researcher identified comprehensive public high schools within the state of California where measurable growth in positive perceptions of school culture had been achieved within the preceding two to four years. Of this target population, six schools were identified, through which the researcher conducted individual interviews with each principal and focus group discussions with separate groups of six to eight teachers and six to eight classified staff members at each school site. Additionally, the researcher participated in observations at each school site and gathered artifacts to support the data garnered through the interviews and focus group discussions.

Findings: Participants recognized trust, relationships, and shared values as the fundamental components of a positive school culture. Principals perceived shared leadership and decision making as vital, while teachers and classified staff members responded strongly to the inspiring vision of a passionate school leader. Classified staff members also responded strongly to the importance of communication within the organization.

Conclusions: Cultural change efforts require time, patience, empathy, and willingness to engage in conflict and honest discourse. Additionally, schools with strong, positive culture create an environment that is student-centered, feels like home/family, and values all stakeholders as equally important. All decisions, goals, and plans are rooted in the shared values of the school community, which are communicated constantly in various ways.

Recommendations: School leaders hoping to positively shift their cultures must engage all stakeholders in the development of shared values, implement structures that facilitate the building of relationships, celebrate risk-taking and small wins, demonstrate and inspire trust, and develop methods to assess and constantly reassess the aspects of their schools’ cultures in order to spark a call to action that will resonate with stakeholders.