Date of Award

Summer 7-27-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Education: Policy Studies


Department of Doctoral Studies

First Advisor

Galletta, Anne M.

Second Advisor

Frederick M. Hampton

Third Advisor

Mark Freeman


For decades, urban school reform has been a persistent issue. Research suggests that urban school reforms that connect equitably to broader community improvement efforts are more sustainable and that principals play a pivotal role in leading such efforts. Although the role of the school principal is a front-line leader charged with the execution of policy and legislation, the experience of principal leadership is an area of limited research particularly how the creative leadership of the school principal connects with school transformational improvement efforts. The purpose of this research was to explore and describe the experiences of urban principals, particularly their roles, responsibilities and leadership styles within an era of accountability of student performance outcomes as measured in state test scores. Central to the study was the principal narrations of their experiences as they navigated between policy compliance and creative leadership through the specific context of the Cleveland Plan implementation. In this study, creative leadership is defined as a multidimensional and transformational in its integration of distributed, authentic, and adaptive in its response to complex urban environments. It involves a view towards change that steps outside of the existing practices through collaborative, distributed, and authentic leadership to strategically move through a problem-solving framework (Puccio, Mance, & Murdock, 2011). vii Using a case study design, the research focused on the principal leadership skill set as narrated by principals within a context of a specific period of school reform beginning when the Cleveland Plan was legislated as H.B. 525 in 2012 through 2019 and the issuance of the last full year state report card. Data collection involved semistructured interviews with principals of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. The research sought to both expand the study of school administration and leadership in new directions and to contribute to the base of research using the actual experiences of urban principals.