District Superintendents' Experiences During The COVID-19 Crisis




Campbell, Alexis

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There are many forms of crises a district leader may experience, including school closure, severe weather, school shooting, flooding, student or staff death, and more recently, a pandemic. There is a lack of research concerning how leaders make sense of widespread societal crises such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Daily, superintendents must make decisions that will affect students and staff. As the leader of an organization, there are always multiple factors superintendents must keep in mind. During the COVID-19 pandemic, superintendents led their districts without having prior knowledge of leading in a pandemic such as this and were forced to adjust and adapt schooling to new COVID-19 regulations. My goal in this study was to, through phenomenological research, develop a holistic view of each participant’s lived experience as a district leader to better understand the reasoning for how they processed and reacted to the crisis created by COVID-19. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 10 public-school superintendents. Data were collected that can be used by other superintendents to help prepare them to lead through future crises. Bolman and Deal’s (2017) Reframing Organizations Four Frame Model as well as Smith and Riley’s (2012) cyclical model of crisis management guided this qualitative study. From the data collected, four themes emerged: the unforeseen, emotional state, team alignment, and pre-pandemic and pandemic leadership. A summary of the findings, as well as implications, connections to theory, and recommendations, are provided in this dissertation.



crises, district leader, COVID-19, pandemic, superintendent


Campbell, A. (2022). District superintendents' experiences during The COVID-19 crisis (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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