Perceptions of Secondary Alternative School Principals Educating At-Risk Students in Regards to Leadership Preparation

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Virginia Tech


Alternative education as defined by Sable, Plotts, and Mitchell (2010), is "a public school that addresses needs of students that typically cannot be met at in a regular school" (p. C-1). In many public alternative schools, the individuals chosen as leaders are licensed, certified school principals. Research focusing on alternative education is emerging yet, there is limited research directly devoted to alternative school leadership (Price, 2010). With the knowledge that students attending alternative schools have needs that cannot be met in traditional school settings, what specializations can leadership preparation programs and school division sponsored professional development offer to prepare secondary alternative school principals for alternative school leadership?

Utilizing a phenomenological qualitative-based research design, secondary alternative school principals across the Commonwealth of Virginia were asked to participate in a study which employed semi-structured surveys to explore their perceptions of leadership preparation programs, division level professional development, and the impact of specialized training on leadership.

The results of the study indicated that secondary alternative school principals in the Commonwealth of Virginia perceive that specialized leadership preparation is needed to effectively lead alternative schools and they were not adequately prepared by their leadership preparation programs to lead alternative schools.



Alternative Education, At-Risk Student, Educational Leadership, Professional Development