Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)

Degree Level



Curriculum and Instruction


John Pijanowski

Committee Member

Ed Bengtson

Second Committee Member

Kara Lasater


Administrator Responsibilities, Administrator Roles, Administrator Training, Elementary Assistant Principal, Elementary Principal, Elementary Principal Succession


School districts across the United States are confronted with a shortage of highly qualified principal applicants, a situation compounded by a haphazard approach to leadership succession planning. While the vast majority of principals and superintendents endorse the promotion of assistant principals as the most effective way to develop successful school leaders, few structures exist to support that endeavor. Despite their essential role in the school’s operations and escalating demands for accountability for high standards and performance at the school level, assistant principals have been rendered virtually invisible in the scholarly literature. This study sought to fill the glaring gap in knowledge of the socialization experiences of assistant principals. Through a qualitative, in-depth phenomenological interview study of eight novice elementary school principals, this study focused on how the leadership practices of principals are influenced and informed by their prior experiences as assistant principals, as well as identified and defined the assistant principal’s roles and responsibilities. Themes that surfaced from the data analysis process were narrowed to relationships, leadership development, and job responsibilities for assistant principals and principals. The findings indicated that assistant principal roles and responsibilities are more managerial than instructional, districts are providing less professional development opportunities for assistant principals than they are principals, and preparedness for the role of principal is largely dependent on the leadership opportunities provided by the principals mentoring the assistant principals. It is recommended that school districts take a strategic approach to succession planning that includes opportunities for assistant principals to experience multiple leadership styles as well as distributing instructional leadership responsibilities as training for the principalship. School districts also need to assure that principals are equipped to develop assistant principals’ leadership capabilities through techniques such as mentoring, coaching, training, and providing them with opportunities to exercise leadership.