The principal's perspectives on the first year of the recovery of a low-performing elementary school : a case study
Sumowski, Robert Francis
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This study chronicles the experiences, challenges, and barriers faced by an elementary principal during the first year of the recovery of a low-performing school in Central Georgia whose superintendent mandated the implementation of an external, stateappointed, school improvement team. The school improvement team chose the America’s Choice program as its model for recovering the low-performing school. The constant comparative method of data analysis was incorporated in this qualitative case study. Drawing from research in the fields of mental health, emergency management, environmental philosophy, medicine, and law, the researcher introduces the construct of recovery as an alternative philosophy to those of restructuring and reconstitution during the reform of low-performing and failing schools. Results indicated the principal faced challenges in the areas of communication, conflict with the school improvement team and its team leader, time management, and the maintenance of both staff and personal morale during the first year of recovery. The principal viewed the intervention itself as an intrusion and an affront to the school, staff, and himself due to the school’s demonstrated progress in student achievement during the two years prior to the implementation of the school improvement team. The effects on the principal included his lack of confidence in the intervention, questioning his role as school leader, and questioning his future at the school. At the conclusion of the first year, the principal feared a negative impact on student achievement, an emotional effect on the school’s self- image as expressed by the staff, and held a tentative view toward the school’s future. After the emergence of an improved state of communication between the principal and his superiors, the local superintendent and Board of Education decided to abandon both the school improvement team and America’s Choice at the conclusion of the first year of recovery. Discussion and implications are presented for principals, hiring committees, and school system leaders contemplating recovery efforts in other low-performing schools. Further implications for the construct of recovery are discussed.