The unsuccessful principalship: Career -threatening problems and intervention strategies

Donna Jane Matthews, Tennessee State University


This research project identifies career threatening problems encountered by public school principals and delineates the sequence of events that occurs when such problems are discovered. It also focuses on what is being done to assist principals who experience problems and what happens after assistance has been provided. Data were gathered using a survey instrument developed especially for the study. Survey items were derived from the literature on career threatening problems in educational administration and business management. The instrument was administered to 95 county public school superintendents/directors in Tennessee. Collected data were analyzed, resulting in several findings: (1) Of the 79 respondents, 48 indicated that they had supervised a principal who encountered career threatening problems. (2) A factor analysis yielded seven clusters of administrative competencies: Instructional Leadership, School Climate and Stakeholder Relations, Problem Solving and Decision Making, Relations with Superiors, Faculty and Staff, Management Skills, Communication Skills, Student Discipline. (3) The source that first informed superintendents and/or directors most often about principals at risk of failing was Central Office Administrators. (4) Superintendent/Directors identified conferencing with the principal most often as the most effective intervention activity for at-risk principals. (5) Only 10 of the principals who encountered career threatening problems maintained their position. Seven more were transferred to another administrative position within the system. (6) Principals who were deficient in demonstrating flexibility and accepting change were not likely to maintain the principalship where problems were encountered. This study provided direction for superintendents and/or directors in both hiring new principals and intervening with those considered to be at risk of failing. The findings are also important for university faculty responsible for the preservice and inservice education of principals and superintendents.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Donna Jane Matthews, "The unsuccessful principalship: Career -threatening problems and intervention strategies" (2001). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3007616.