Date of Award

1-9-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Donna Breault - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Kay Bunch

Third Advisor

Dr. Eric Freeman

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Hayward Richardson

Abstract

This study investigates principals’ perceptions about the importance and degree of building relationships with Hispanic/Latino families in highly diverse schools in an Atlanta area school district. Over the past ten years, the school district’s Hispanic/Latino student population increased by more than 12,000 students. The school district’s current Hispanic/Latino enrollment is almost 15,000 students, which is 14.4% of the total student body. Six principals from different elementary and middle schools with growing Hispanic/Latino student populations participated in this qualitative study involving in-depth, one-on-one interviews, informal observations, and artifact collection. The data analysis process involved transcribing the interview tapes verbatim, analyzing the narratives for theme categories, and identifying the common theme patterns. Critical theorists Giroux, Apple, and Freire provided the framework to examine the principals’ responses and experiences. Hegemony, patriarchy, and reciprocity are critical theory concepts used to criticize and critique the data to glean meaning and understanding of the principals’ perceptions about relationship building with Hispanic/Latino parents and families. There is a disequilibrium between what the principals say is occurring at their schools and the hidden and taken-for-granted structures that exist at their schools. Based on their actions, it seems principals perceive that in order to build relationships with Hispanic/Latino families, the school leaders need to take on a patriarchal role and explain the necessary knowledge, skills, and practices to the parents. This hegemonic behavior perpetuates the dominant group’s power and control over the non-dominant, oppressed groups. In addition, there was no indication that the principals gain an understanding of the Hispanic/Latino culture and language before attempting to help the families with parenting and schooling. The findings suggest that the principals are operating on the assumption that they know what is best for the Hispanic/Latino population without prior inquiry. There is little evidence that the principals believe they have something to learn from the Hispanic/Latino parents and families, thus, a reciprocal learning relationship is non-existent. These underlying beliefs and assumptions will hinder the principals from building a true relationship with the students, parents, and families who they serve in the school community.

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