Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Administration

Major Professor

Gerald Ubben

Committee Members

Colleen Gilrane, Cynthia Norris, Olga Welch


The primary purpose of this study was to examine the challenges of principals who opened new elementary schools and to identify the essential responsibilities and duties they encountered. Identifying the role and latitude of the principal at different phases of the school construction was also examined. This research was guided by the research question: What are the duties, responsibilities, and challenges that principals encounter when charged with the task of opening and organizing a new elementary school?

The sample for the study included three principals from three Tennessee public elementary schools who opened a new school for the first time during the 2001-2002 or 2002-2003 school years. The data for this study was collected via personal interviews using a semi-structured interview guide which consisted of twenty questions.

Several findings emerged from the data revealing some important observations about the duties, responsibilities, and challenges that principals encounter opening a new school. These included: 1) the planning and design stage of the new school was developed before the principal was appointed; 2) the latitude of the principal during the construction phase varied depending on when principals were appointed; 3) there was a diverse list of duties and responsibilities consisting of processes, procedures, and functions for which no assistance was provided or formal guidelines established; 4) an incredible amount of time and energy was spent by the principal dealing with unexpected and unavoidable challenges and concerns; 5) the need to consult and involve all stakeholders in the process of establishing a new learning community; 6) specific skills and attributes are needed by those who open new schools; 7) a sufficient amount of time is needed by new school openers to focus solely on the task of organizing and implementing a new school setting; 8) there is a rewarding personal and professional feeling that accompanies the challenge of opening a new school.

The following recommendations are drawn from the findings of the study. The recommendations of the study suggest: 1) that principals be appointed early in the design and planning phase of new schools; 2) specific knowledge, skills, and characteristics are needed by those who open new schools; 4) a support system is needed for new school openers; and 5) principal preparation programs need to be improved.

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