Caught in the middle: Surveying school principals' beliefs, stakeholder support, and their actions in school management

Charles Murphy, Fordham University


In an era of mandated “democracy” in schools—under the banner of site-based management (SBM) and shared decision making—principals find themselves on the hot seat. How can they be participants in SBM without strong support from school boards, superintendents, fellow principals (external sources) and teachers and parents (internal)? What effects do positive environmental supports have on principals' engagement, involvement, level of defensiveness, and overall satisfaction with SBM? ^ This study uses survey research to investigate suburban elementary school principals (N = 73), employing a new, validated, and reliable instrument to test the hypotheses that (a) strong environmental support builds more positive attitudes among principals toward democratic decision making; (b) greater external (board of education, superintendent, fellow peers) and internal (teachers/parents) support, controlling for principal and district demographics, predicts variance in levels of SBM beliefs, satisfaction, and engagement. ^ Data initially show significant differences in principals, beliefs and attitudes toward SBM between those working in strong, supportive environments and those in moderate, tepid environments. This study showed strong and significant intercorrelations between stakeholder support and principals' actions toward school-based management. Regression equations reliably and significantly predict about 63% of the variance in principal satisfaction and 51% of the variance in principal engagement in shared school leadership, based on key support variables. ^ Findings seem to illustrate that school districts are indeed systems: that the environmental influences and support from superiors (boards and superintendents), peers, and school-level groups (teachers, parents) have a significant effect on school leaders, and that principals are significantly less defensive and controlling. ^

Subject Area

Education, Administration

Recommended Citation

Murphy, Charles, "Caught in the middle: Surveying school principals' beliefs, stakeholder support, and their actions in school management" (2000). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9975358.