Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Sue Poppink

Second Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer

Third Advisor

Dr. Peggy Thelen


Principal, longevity, job satisfaction, high school


Today’s school leaders face many challenges. There is a renewed need to look at principal’s job satisfaction and longevity given recent trends in burnout, increased accountability, and a shortage of qualified candidates. There are conflicting demands on high school principals’ time and capacity. These leaders still have the traditional responsibilities of ensuring a safe environment, managing a budget, and maintaining discipline. Higher expectations for student success have brought with them an increase in school program expectations (DiPaola & Tschannen-Moran, 2003).

The job of the principal has changed throughout the years (DiPaola & Tschannen-Moran, 2003; White-Smith & White, 2009). The shift from manager to instructional leader, along with an increase in responsibilities has made the job more challenging (Goodwin, Cunningham, & Childress, 2003). Research also shows that not as many educators aspire to the position of high school principal, and when they do become a building leader, they tend to not stay for an extended length of time (Gajda & Militello, 2008).

This qualitative study examines the experiences of 12 Michigan high school principals who have been a building principal for at least five years. This phenomenological study was designed to find out what experiences high school principals describe as contributing or detracting from their job satisfaction as well as what factors contribute to or threaten their longevity.

Findings include that principals find satisfaction in working with and influencing students, leading and managing change, and they enjoy doing an important and challenging job. Factors that detract from satisfaction include negative adult behaviors, lack of support and trust, and the time commitment to do the job. New findings from this study point to the fact that principals enjoy empowering others and developing leaders to help meet the challenges present in today’s educational environment. A new finding with regard to job dissatisfaction includes the fact that principals do not enjoy dealing with negative teacher and adult behaviors. Finally, multiple factors were reported as contributing to longevity in the position, some of which include school board, community, central office, staff, and collegial support.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access