Leadership Perspectives on Independent School Culture

Open Access
Schochor, Daniel Ross
Graduate Program:
Educational Leadership
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 12, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Dr Jaqueline Stefkovich, Dissertation Advisor
  • Jacqueline A Stefkovich, Committee Chair
  • Paul Begley, Committee Member
  • Preston Green Iii, Committee Member
  • Edgar Paul Yoder, Committee Member
  • Private/Independent Schools
  • School Culture
  • Leadership
  • Accountability
  • Competence
  • Community
  • Off-Campus Factors
This study focused on the creation of positive school culture at the independent school level. The central questions guiding this research were: (1) What comprises school culture in independent schools? (2) How do stakeholders at The Polk School define school culture? (3) According to the stakeholders at The Polk School, who has the most influence over the school culture? (4) How do stakeholders in one independent school perceive school culture in their school as opposed to public schools? Is it the same? Is it different? If so, how? (5) What impact, if any, does school culture have on academic performance (as perceived by independent school stakeholders)? (6) Do the leaders in one independent school see themselves as influencing school culture? Do the other stakeholders in this school see the leaders as influencing school culture? If so, what specific actions can school leaders take to influence school culture positively? In order to address these questions a single-site case study was conducted at an independent school, The Polk School, located in the Middle Atlantic States. This case study used a multitude of in-depth interviews as a means of data collection. Nine school community members holding different positions within the school community were interviewed, twice each. A review of the literature was conducted that focused on a variety of scholars. Some of the literature focused on defining school culture; other articles and books were case studies conducted using school culture as a focal point. Literature focusing on the connection between school culture and academic achievement, leadership theory, and leadership and its direct effect on school culture was also included. The emergent theory created in this study can be used as a tool for practitioners. The study was conducted in a manner that allowed for the detailed examination of a single school environment. Future studies can look to compare what was found at The Polk School with findings from schools across geographic regions, or comparing schools located in close proximity to one another. Research can also be conducted within a single school, focusing on individual stakeholder groups (students, faculty, and administration) and their views on positive school culture and their specific role in creating it.