Date of Award

Fall 12-1-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Research and Administration

Committee Chair

Lilian H. Hill

Committee Chair Department

Educational Research and Administration

Committee Member 2

David E. Lee

Committee Member 2 Department

Educational Research and Administration

Committee Member 3

Stanley Benigno

Committee Member 3 Department

Educational Research and Administration

Committee Member 4

Thomas O'Brien

Committee Member 4 Department

Educational Research and Administration


In order to improve retention of first-year principals, all schools should have a leadership succession plan for first-year, P-12 principals to help improve principal effectiveness and retention (Fink & Brayman, 2006). Russell and Sabina (2014) defined succession planning as the explicit design and implementation of programs to identify and develop high-quality principal candidates. Further, succession planning is about ensuring that the next set of leaders is trained and poised to take on leadership responsibilities when needed (Beaulieu, n. d.).

It is clear that the challenges of being a principal are great, and that this is especially true during the early stages of a principal’s career. Multiple research studies have been conducted regarding first-year principals’ retention (Rivera-McCuthchen, 2014). As a result, factors such as ineffective mentoring, lack of support by staff members and district office personnel, little to no administrative internships, and ineffective preparation in university principalship programs have been identified. However, little to no research has been done regarding succession planning among first-year, P-12 principals. Additionally, extensive research pertaining to succession planning has been done in the business sector, but not the education sector (Russell & Sabina, 2014).

The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the succession planning process when used for first-year, P-12 principals. This study sought information regarding how transparent the succession planning process was, how widespread succession planning was, and whether it was a genuine process or merely a formality. The theoretical framework that guided this study regarded situational leadership theory. Additionally, the following research questions guided the study: (a) How do first-year principals describe their experiences in participating in the succession planning program?, (b) What were the benefits, if any, they experienced in the succession planning program?, and (c) What, if any, negative experiences do they describe as a result of participating in the succession planning program?

The researcher interviewed ten participants in person. Six participants were first-year principals, three were assistant superintendents, and one was a superintendent. In order to answer the research questions, a basic qualitative design was used in this study, and the methods of inquiry for this phenomenological approach were semi-structured interviews, transcriptions, and field notes.

After data collection and analysis, the following themes were found: (a) Succession Planning – What’s That?; (b) Grooming One’s Own; (c) A Leadership Pipeline: A Process; (d) From Instructional Literacy Coaches (Lead Teachers) to Principals; (e) The Presence/Absence of Instructional Literacy Coaches; (f) Three Years of Experience – A Minimum Preference/Requirement for the Principalship; (g) Good Ole’ Boy System; (h) Instructional Leadership; and (i) Situational Leadership.