The Role of School Assistant Principals and their Perceptions Regarding the Characteristics and Culture of a Good School
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Throughout the literature, leadership and culture are intertwined. Organizational and leadership theorists alike hold that a leader’s perceptions and behaviors are significant, if not primary, determinants of an organization’s culture and climate. Given that the assistant principal is exceeded in positional authority only by the principal at a school and the fact that assistant principals will have an impact in all visible and inner workings of the school, there is a need to examine the relationship between the assistant principal’s leadership perspectives and school culture by studying the perceptions and beliefs of assistant principals. The purpose of the study is to examine the beliefs and perceptions of assistant principals regarding the factors necessary for a school to be considered a good school, and how they describe the culture and climate of good schools. This study is an exploratory inquiry using a subset of the archived data from a much larger, multi-phase study of principals and assistant principals in the Gulf Coast Region of Southeast Texas. The participants, 371 current campus assistant principals, were surveyed by using a combination of traditional survey and cognitive interviewing techniques to address questions related to assistant principal perceptions regarding the characteristics of a good school and how they would describe the culture of a good school. Six major themes were identified from the responses for each of the two research questions. The themes were given the following operational definitions: Student Achievement; Professional Learning Communities; Positive Climate; Strong Leadership; Parental & Community Involvement; Student Discipline (research question one); and Valuing the Student (research question two). The results of the analysis indicated that the comprehensive nature of the roles asked of the assistant principal puts them in a position to be qualified, almost uniquely so, to render a perspective on what is good in schools and what good schools look like. This study demonstrates, through the perceptions of assistant principals, that for a school to be considered “good,” it must do so by first establishing a strong, healthy culture that is conducive to not only learning, but to the well-being of the whole individual, both adult and student.