Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Andrew Thomas


At the time of this study, there is intensified awareness of the importance of special education and the appropriate implementation of supports and services for the students identified as having special needs. In the United States, understanding special education laws, the needs of students with special needs who are served in the school building, and effective ways to interact with staff members and families about special education are important components of principal leadership success. Principal supervisors and others who provide training and ongoing professional development for principals and potential school leaders need to understand more about issues principals face in these expanding roles. This phenomenological study was conducted to explore the lived experiences of principals regarding their experiences and perceptions related to their levels of preparation for special education leadership. The conceptual framework based upon Bandura's social learning theory presented the principal as the role model for teachers and the leader in building relationships with families and supporting student success. Ten principals from K-12 schools were interviewed in person and on the phone. A priori and open coding were used to support interpretive analysis. Principals reported three main areas of concern related to their expanded role: knowing how to work with parents, responding to citations their district received due to not following laws, and learning how to handle challenging situations better. These results suggest that having more preparation and continuing training in the area of special education might contribute to principals' greater understanding of best practices, policies, and procedures.