Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Barbara Thayer-Bacon

Committee Members

Robert Kronick, Ashlee Anderson, Tim Hulsey


The purpose of this study was to describe families’ experiences at a rural Community School. Using descriptive phenomenological design, I sought to answer the study’s central research question: What is the experience of families at a rural Community School? In order to answer this question, I interviewed ten parents at a rural Community School in the Southeastern United States. Participant interview transcripts were analyzed using Creswell’s method of phenomenological data analysis and led to the identification of five themes that describe the phenomenon. Those were (1) School Supports (2) Parent Engagement (3) Community Impact (4) Institutional Trust and (5) The Coordinator Effect. I identified 19 additional sub-themes under these overarching themes. Major findings from this study support the idea that Community Schools have a positive impact on school resource support, parent engagement, community impact, institutional trust, and emphasize the importance of having a committed staff member focused on these facets in rural contexts. Significant findings of this study include Community Schools’ ability to cater to rural-specific issues and their capacity to foster a sense of engagement and investment in rural communities. This study also identified a need to address issues with awareness and differentiation associated with implementing a Community School strategy. Key takeaways from this research that can be used in future practice are creating community awareness about Community Schools, providing targeted, ongoing communication, ensuring that leadership supports the Community School, and carefully selecting the Community School’s Coordinator. Some avenues for future research include expanding phenomenological interviews to staff and community members, identifying longitudinal changes over time, and similarly configuring research in other rural Community Schools.

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