Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership

Major Professor

Judith A. Ponticell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William R. Black, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jolyn Blank, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Wolgemuth, Ph.D.


leadership influence, organizational culture, school leadership


Culture has been discussed and written about at great length from roots in anthropology (e.g., Tylor, 1920; Mead, 1928) to development of the concepts of organizational culture (Schein, 1985, 2010) and school culture (e.g., Bolman & Deal, 2013; Deal & Peterson, 1991, 2009). Societies, organizations and schools as organizations create, develop, and maintain culture—deep-seated assumptions, values, ways of thinking and acting that characterize how we do things, how we live.

In a school the principal is often cast as responsible for influencing or creating a culture and climate for change (Fullan, 2008; Jones et al., 2013). Thus, it is important for a principal to understand school culture (Pritchard, Marshall, & Morrow, 2003), especially if a principal wants to attempt to change culture. School culture has been called a powerful force that can support or block school change efforts (Redding & Corbett, 2018).

This was a qualitative study, guided by narrative inquiry and using semi-structured interviews and a school walk interview to explore a high school principal’s understanding of school culture, how she saw the elements of culture in her school, and how those elements of culture influenced her leadership and decision-making. Findings of the study illustrated three elements of school culture that were important to the principal: family atmosphere, history, and discipline. A fourth element–renovation–illustrated how elements of school culture affected her decisions during a major school event. Tensions among elements of culture were also identified (e.g., family atmosphere and discipline).