Date of Conferral







Dr. Cheryl Keen


Researchers have observed that effective leaders are essential to achieving and sustaining high student achievement in disadvantaged poor rural areas. Poor leadership may negatively influence the academic performance of students. The poor performance of students in disadvantaged rural areas has been a continuous concern for Catholic educators in Nigeria. The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the leadership practices that a rural Catholic school principal implemented to improve the academic standards in a disadvantaged environment in Nigeria. This qualitative case study sought to explore the practices of a principal in a Catholic school in the Diocese of Auchi that have improved student performance significantly in a disadvantaged rural area. Leithwood and Riehl's core leadership practices framework served as a conceptual basis for understanding the leadership practices of an effective school principal. The collection of data was through semistructured interviews with 12 participants (principal, 6 teachers, and 5 parents), a focus group with 5 teachers, field notes from direct observations, and documents from the school. Data analysis was thematic and flexible as guided by an interpretative framework. The findings suggest that Catholic school principals in disadvantaged areas need to set direction, have professional development for teachers, focus on the teaching and learning, and create an enabling climate with a positive culture, building Catholic character, good relationships, and stakeholders' collaboration. This study may contribute to positive social change in building best leadership practices in helping students learn in the midst of poverty, sustaining and improving student academic achievement.