Date of Award

Spring 3-3-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Cindy Petersen

Second Advisor

Dr. Keith Larick

Third Advisor

Dr. Jody Graf


The purpose of this qualitative multiple case study was to identify the challenges faced by rural school superintendent/principals and the corresponding strategies used to mitigate those challenges. The role of the superintendent/principal is considered to be one of the most challenging administrative roles; little if no research had been conducted on the challenges and strategies of this dual administrative role. The target population for the present study was the forty-six superintendent/principals in California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA), Region 2. Three superintendent/principals from this target population, who have served four years or more in their role, were selected to be subjects of the case study. The researcher created an interview protocol to address the research questions. Based on the interview responses additional data was reviewed to support the challenges and strategies identified by the superintendent/principals. This data included, but was not limited too, Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP), budgets, school board minutes and agendas, and parent newsletters. The interview data was transcribed and coded/themed. Research questions 1 and 2 focused on the challenges faced by superintendent/principals and the strategies utilized to mitigate these challenges. Research question 3 gathered demographic data and allowed for the correlation of identified challenges and strategies to those demographics. The Bolman and Deal framework was created to examine leadership in organizations. Their four frames – structural, symbolic, human resource and political –have been used to evaluate leadership effectiveness, outcomes, and results of change, and have been used to identify leadership orientation in educational and other organizations. The data collected regarding the challenges and the strategies of rural school superintendent/principals was aligned to the Bolman and Deal Four Frames. The findings revealed the job complexity, staffing and enrollment are the biggest challenges faced by those in the role of superintendent/principal. The strategies reported by the superintendent/principals to mitigate challenges were shared expertise, job definition strategies and shared leadership. The findings did not differ based on the gender, years of experience or years in the role. Alignment to the Bolman and Deal four frames revealed that two challenges aligned to the structural frame and one each to the symbolic, human resource and political frame.