Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Kathryn Swetnam


Highly qualified teachers (HQTs) have more influence on students’ academic success than class size, curriculum, school culture, and technology. However, principals display discrepant practices in recruiting, hiring, and retaining HQTs. The purpose of this basic exploratory qualitative study was to investigate the perceptions of elementary, middle, and high school principals from a rural school district in a southern state concerning practices of recruiting, hiring, and retaining HQTs. Senge’s paradigm of a learning organization and an adapted model of Dickinson’s recruitment, selection, and retention of child welfare workers guided this study. Research questions addressed administrators’ perceptions of strategies used to recruit, hire, and retain HQTs. Data were collected using semistructured interviews from a purposeful sample of eight elementary, middle, and high school principals with 2 or more years of administrative experience. Content analysis using a priori, open, and pattern coding identified categories and themes. The findings revealed that administrators from rural school districts (a) recruit HQTs through personal and professional referrals, local candidates’ investment, and advertisement; (b) hire HQTs by selecting interview teams capable of judging whether candidates’ experiences align with schools’ vision and culture; and (c) retain HQTs by maintaining collaborative leadership practices and a positive school culture that allow teachers to be flexible in their planning, teaching, and professional development. It is recommended that school administrators in rural school districts be presented with these results. Insights from the study may afford positive social change by communicating effective practices to increase principals’ ability to recruit, hire, and retain HQTs in rural school districts.