Date of Award

Spring 3-24-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Keith Larick

Second Advisor

Dr. Tim McCarty

Third Advisor

Dr. General Davie


Purpose: The purpose of this mixed methods heuristic research study was to discover how school superintendents described their crisis leadership and management experiences during the 2017-2018 wildfires in California through the lens of the Five Critical Tasks of Strategic Crisis Leadership framework of sense making, meaning making, decision-making and coordination, learning, accounting (Boin, 't Hart, Stern, & Sundelius, 2017). Additionally, this study determined the extent to which school superintendents identify their use of the Five Critical Tasks of Strateby Dianna W. Kitamuragic Crisis Leadership framework.

Methodology: This explanatory, sequential mixed methods heuristic research study investigated a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews to address the research questions as they pertain to the Five Critical Tasks of Strategic Crisis Leadership framework (CTSCL).

Findings: The major findings of this study were superintendents must incorporate the CTSCL into their traditional crisis preparedness plan and include a social-political network to effectively lead their district during a crisis. Training is inadequate for a superintendent’s preparation for a crisis; and social justice, equity, and gender equality issues also manifest during a crisis.

Conclusion: Making meaning of a crisis was the critical task that was the most significant for superintendents as they make sense of the crisis and make decisions about the safety and well-being of students and staff. The decision-making and coordination task was also significant due to an emphasis on the connection with other public officials being an essential component of leading a district during a crisis. Finally, preparation for a crisis is crucial with operations and logistics during a crisis and also the socio-political aspect of collaborating with mutual aid networks and local, state, and federal leaders to ensure the response, recovery, and rebuilding of the school district and community.

Recommendations: This study was conducted through the lens of school superintendents. It is recommended that this same study is conducted for city managers, county administrators, local and state office of emergency services, fire chiefs, or police chiefs. An additional recommendation is for the development of professional development for leaders on the socio-political practices and policies that should be developed alongside the logistical plan for crisis preparedness.