Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Shirley A. Freed

Second Advisor

Gary Gifford

Third Advisor

James R. Jeffery


Problem. The average length of stay for school principals in the Seventh-day Adventist system of education in North America is 2.5-4.0 years. Elementary principals remain in leadership for 2.5 years, day academy principals stay for 3.6 years, and boarding academy principals stay for 4.0 years. Many studies have identified reasons why school principals leave their jobs. However, few studies have been conducted to understand why principals in the organization stay.

Purpose. The purpose of this study was to describe the experiences of principals who have remained in leadership in the Adventist system of education in North America longer than 10 years in a single school building. The research question, How do principals in the Adventist system of education in North America describe their role and the experiences that helped them stay as administrators in one location for 10 consecutive years? was the focus of this study.

Method. A qualitative multiple-case study design using narrative inquiry was utilized to describe the experiences of Adventist principals in North America who stayed a minimum of 10 years in one location. The criterion used for this sampling directly reflected the purpose of this study and guided the identification of information-rich cases. The primary criterion used for the study was (a) the principal had served as an administrator for 10 consecutive years in one school building, (b) they were identified by their union education directors and approved to participate in this study by their local education superintendents, (c) the principals were chosen with every effort to reflect a balance between gender, ethnicity, and a balance of service time, school size, and types of schools, and (d) Spiritual leadership theory and resiliency theory as theoretical perspectives.

Findings. Principals in the Adventist system of education in North America who have stayed in one building for 10 or more consecutive years are resilient spiritual leaders. They thrive inspite of the fact the role and expectations associated with their jobs are undefined and quite complex. The demands of the job, personnel issues, parent and student issues, board issues, financial issues, constituency and community issues all contribute to over work and imbalanced lives. Yet because of their strong relationship with God, they are able to be resilient even when faced with adversity. Most rely on prayer and the support of their families to sustain them through many difficult and challenging moments. They stay because of their passion for the students, commitment to God's calling, passion for ministry, and passion to serve others.

Subject Area

School principals, Elementary school principals, High school principals, Seventh-day Adventist schools--North America, Seventh-day Adventists--Education--North America

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