Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Ruby Burgess


Principals need support throughout their careers in order to lead effectively and promote continuous improvement. However, some elementary school principals of small, rural schools lack access to structured systems of support that could increase their knowledge and skills as instructional leaders. The purpose of this study was to examine a central California school district's existing system of support for elementary school principals to learn the essential features that could be used to provide support for principals of small, rural schools. Informed by the Principal Support Framework provided by the University of Washington's Center for Educational Leadership, the guiding questions for this case study examined the elements of the system of support for principals, focusing on professional development, collaboration through networks and learning communities, and coaching/mentoring partnerships. Interviews with 4 principals and 1 district leader were conducted, and school district documents were collected. Data were coded to identify themes and to help understand the participants' perspectives. The findings suggest that a system of support for principals is structured around the foundation of collaborative learning through networks in both large and small group settings. Based on these findings, a plan for a professional learning network for principals of small, rural schools to collaborate is included as the project outcome. The study has implications for positive social change: through continuous learning and improvement, elementary principals can improve student learning and, through collaborative problem solving and inquiry, they can help prepare students academically and teachers professionally for continuous improvement.