An Examination of the Challenges Experienced by Novice Principals Leading Rural Schools in Virginia

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Virginia Tech


Novice principals leading rural schools experience unique challenges that define their leadership practices. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how novice principals interpret and understand the challenges they experience as developing leaders within a rural school setting in Virginia. The research question for the study was, what challenges do novice principals situated in a rural setting in Virginia experience as leaders of their schools? This study adds to the existing body of research on the challenges novice principals face as leaders of schools situated within a rural community. For this study, six novice principals working in Rural-Remote (Code 43) schools (as defined by the National Center for Education Statistics) in Virginia participated in a 45-minute, one-on-one interview. The findings revealed that the novice rural principals experienced unique challenges with hiring staff, managing limited budgets, wearing multiple hats, distributed leadership, meeting their community's expectations for accessibility and visibility, readily available collaboration opportunities with professionals in similar roles, and intense feelings of ultimate responsibility. Participants hired with previous administrative experience within the district reported smooth transitions to the principalship. Although the participants reported limited activities from their districts to assist with understanding the rural setting, they expressed satisfaction with the overall support provided by their school district. The implications could help school districts, policymakers, and principal preparation programs effectively manage rural principal successions by establishing mentorship programs; providing field experience to aspiring principals; creating robust principal induction programs; and finding creative solutions to attract, hire, and retain rural school staff.



Principal, School leader, Novice, Rural, History, Context, Challenge, Instructional Practice