Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership

Major Professor

Judith A. Ponticell, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Howard Johnston, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rebecca W. Burns, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joyce G. Haines, Ph.D.


principal autonomy, principal leadership, turnaround schools


Educational reform and state policies have stripped principals and teachers of autonomy, and this has been attributed as one of the reasons why teachers leave the profession. Adamson (2012) stated, "To implement reform at their school sites, principals need a certain degree of autonomy. This study sought to understand what I experienced of autonomy as I embarked on my journey as a principal of a turnaround school; what I did, or did not do, to extend autonomy to teachers; and what I came understand about autonomy in this turnaround setting.

This was an autobiographical narrative inquiry (Freeman, 2007; Saleh, Menon, & Clandinin, 2014). The study took place in one turnaround elementary school in a single urban school district in central Florida and focused only on my first year as principal. Within the complexities of my work, my experiences with autonomy emerged in four categories: organizational systems, systems of support, culture/relationship building, and decision making and control.

I learned that I experienced a degree of autonomy with which I was generally content, and I faced challenges with control and extending autonomy. When I extended autonomy, it was to people I trusted. Where I had a relationship with people that had been built over time, it was easier for me to relinquish control. In the emotional context of the school, I felt vulnerable but did not feel safe enough to demonstrate my vulnerability. So, I held tightly to control and decision making. Through this study I learned more about the connections between trust and motivation and teachers’ role in decision making and control.