Term of Award

Fall 2002

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Administration

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)


Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair


Committee Member 1

Fred Page

Committee Member 2

Michael D. Richardson

Committee Member 3

Catherine Wooddy


The purpose of the study was to describe the perceptions of isolation of high school principals in Georgia. A qualitative method was used to conduct the research.

Utilizing a research instrument composed of sixteen questions designed to elicit responses to five research sub questions, the researcher interviewed ten Georgia high school principals to gather their descriptions and their perceptions of isolation inherent to the high school principalship. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded for recurring patterns and themes by the researcher along with the use of QSR NUD.IST 5 software.

The ten high school principals were chosen through convenience sampling from those with whom the researcher was acquainted well enough to ensure the participants would be comfortable answering questions that might be considered personal in nature. Of the participants, five were male and five were female. Eight were Caucasian and two were African-American. The high school principals were assured their identities would remain confidential; therefore, each was given a fictitious name, and their responses were presented with the assigned name throughout the presentation of the findings. The intent of the analysis of the qualitative data was to utilize direct quotes to maintain the richness of the principals' personal accounts in their own words.

The study explored the principals' backgrounds, perceptions of isolation in the principalship, and strategies they employed to cope with isolation. The majority of the principals in the study reported experiences that had resulted in moderate to severe levels of isolation and loneliness. The principals in the study overwhelmingly expressed passion for their jobs. However, each of the principals recounted personal sacrifices they had made due to factors inherent in the culture of the principalship. The sacrifices included lost time with children, spouses, and personal friends due the excessive amounts of time required in the position of the high school principal. The principals also expressed that time demands inherent to their positions contributed to mental and physical stress. It was apparent from the principals' personal accounts that their job positions engulfed their entire lives. They described their existence as living in a magnified fishbowl due to the high visibility of the high school principal.

A paradox was revealed in that the principals described themselves as being gregarious and people loving individuals; however, they sought solitary activities for fun and relaxation. The quiet solitude sought by the participants fulfilled the need for physical and mental renewal; although, it further isolated the principals from others. Isolation from meaningful relationships with colleagues was also evident in many of the personal accounts. The perceived causes ranged from time issues to territorial competition among colleagues that resulted in distrust. Relationships with superordinates, such as central office personnel including superintendents, were not rewarding for most of the principals. Many described a need and desire for support from those up the ladder, but the principals did not perceive they received what they needed from this source.

According to the participants in this study, principals have been further isolated from day-to-day contact with students and teachers by changing societal demands and demands initiated by recent state and national accountability movements. Principals' roles have changed to meet new demands, leaving them more burdened with documentation requirements and subsequent paperwork.

The strategies employed by the participants to cope with isolation followed some common practices. The most common was a strong sense of moral purpose that was possessed by all of the principals. The principals were deeply passionate about improving the educational opportunities for children. Most of the principals felt that their vision and mission justified the personal and professional sacrifices they made. Other strategies employed by the participants included mentoring others, employing distributive leadership, and networking with other principals.


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