Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Jami Berry

Second Advisor

Dr. Nick Sauers

Third Advisor

Dr. Kendra Washington-Bass


School leadership impacts student achievement through the development of a positive school climate and high levels of employee engagement. This dissertation examined the characteristics and behaviors of a school principal who positively impacted school climate and employee engagement. A case study was conducted at a high performing Title I school, as identified by the Georgia Department of Education. The school’s personal registered an above average grand mean score on the Gallup Q12 Engagement Survey. The school was located in a large urban school district. Social Exchange Theory provided a theoretical framework for this study. The behaviors of the principal were examined to determine specific characteristics that influenced school climate and employee engagement. Interviews, a focus group, and several observations were conducted to gather qualitative data pertinent to the principal’s approach to leadership. The results of the research identified six primary leadership characteristics that impacted school climate and employee engagement: the principal focused on (a) students, (b) building relationships, (c) creating a collaborative environment, (d) communicating clearly, (e) developing others, and (f) reflecting on practice. This study contributes information about leadership characteristics that support the academic performance of students in high-needs schools. This research identified six characteristics required of leadership for students to be academically successful in a positive school climate with highly engaged employees.