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A Tale of Two Teams: A Case Study in an Underperforming Suburban High School

Jennifer Marie Kelsall, Illinois State University

Imported from ProQuest Kelsall_ilstu_0092E_10542.pdf


This case study was completed in a Midwestern suburban public high school which was once high achieving but deemed underperforming by NCLB standards. The study examined what school leaders do to enhance school culture as a means to improve teaching and learning, while negotiating the escalating demands of NCLB. The researcher completed 130 hours of interviews, observation, and artifact analysis and sought to determine how educational leaders create effective organizational culture and persist in their leadership efforts in spite of the limitations and flaws inherent in NCLB. The researcher engaged with the district in the wake of a critical incident involving the former superintendent/principal. Subsequent changes dictated by the community to the School Board leadership and administrative personnel dramatically impacted the remaining staff. The focus shifted to fiscal transparency and reduction in expenditures, causing morale to plummet. The case study revealed the following emerging themes: leadership, vision, trust, risk, and pride. Transformative leadership was found to elicit the greatest assets in this school district. The strength of leadership was dependent on having a clear vision, building trust within the school personnel, encouraging risk-taking to enhance student learning and personal growth while coalescing a sense of pride to being a part of a community. All of these aspects of the organization, when present, build social capital. When lacking any of these traits, change was difficult and often seen as top-down. Leadership style determined the schoolâ??s capacity to change to meet the demands of federal mandates.