Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Brett Geier, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Rusty Stitt, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Jeffrey Thoenes, Ph.D.


School principals are facing an increase in demand and challenges from district, state, and federal agencies for improvements both behaviorally and academically. Each year, more school principals exit their positions for other professions. The concentrated poverty school districts have been hit the hardest by this exodus.

The purpose of this basic qualitative study is to examine why some principals within concentrated poverty school districts remain in their positions, especially when they are located near other districts with much lower poverty concentrations. The factors of interest are issues such as district leadership support for principals, compensation, climate and culture of the buildings, principal evaluation, mentoring support, professional development opportunities, and the impact of schools’ socio-economic status.

This study was conducted using a semi-structured, open-ended interview protocol. During the interview process, 10 principals who had worked in a concentrated poverty school for a minimum of five years were interviewed. In addition, the principals came from a wide range of academic levels including elementary, middle, high, alternative, and virtual schools. In an effort to capture why these principals remained working in their respective schools when other professional opportunities became available, they were asked six questions. These questions focused on Locke’s (1976) work on job satisfaction and four areas of professional growth: (1) School Leadership Aspirations, (2) Concentrated Poverty Leadership, (3) ManagingDaily Challenges, and (4) Central Office Recommendations. Constant comparative data analysis resulted in seven major themes and eight subthemes. Upon reviewing the data, I took my I research one step further and categorized these themes and subthemes into three foundation themes: (1) Experiences as a School Leader, (2) Concentrated Poverty Challenges, and (3) Recommendations for Retention.

Prior to this study, most related research on school principal retention provided reasons why leaders left their respective school districts. Little to no research has focused on the reasons that school principals remain in their respective school districts. The purpose of this study is to provide descriptive reasons why school principals remain in concentrated poverty schools. It also provides suggestions for ways that central office administrators can retain school principals. Overall, school principals I interviewed for this study identified opportunities for professional growth, support from the superintendent, collaboration among other leaders, and proper resource allocation as guiding forces of retention. As a result of this study, the literature has expanded to include the results of why school principals remain within their positions.

The results of my research show that central office administrators should focus on providing support and guidance to school principals. The specific supports mentioned by school principals include mentoring opportunities, regular meetings, and emotional support.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access