A first -year principal's attempt to reshape a toxic school culture

Michael George Sanders, Purdue University


This dissertation is an ethnographic case study about the initial stages of reshaping school culture. The study was based primarily upon the direct participant-observation of a first-year principal in an urban school district that used current best practices to reshape a pre-existing "toxic culture" (Deal & Peterson, 1999). The researcher not only observed and interacted with the participants; he worked within the organization being researched. The data sources used in this research were documentation, archival records, interviews, direct observation, and participant observation. This particular high school's culture correlated with its stakeholders' attitudes toward their work. The principal found that the culture grew stronger as the teachers, students, parents, etc. became more equipped and motivated for change. These relationships and attitudes were at the very core of institution's cultural growth and stability. The most effective change in culture happened when the principal, teachers, and students began to model the values and beliefs important to the institution. By the end of the principal's first year, the school's culture became more than a catchy slogan; it became the mindset of the members of the organization.




Kline, Purdue University.

Subject Area

School administration|Secondary education

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