Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Jami Royal Berry

Second Advisor

Sheryl Cowart Moss

Third Advisor

Yinying Wang


As university professors and district leaders attempt to hire or coach leaders and teachers to work in high-needs schools, examining leadership characteristics that contribute to increased student learning from the stakeholders’ perspective is imperative. The purpose of this study was to examine the characteristics of leadership in a high-needs, high-performing school through the voices of a principal, teachers, and other leaders who interacted within the school setting. The rationale for this dissertation was to explore personalized descriptions of experiences that contribute to developing a learning culture in one high-needs school. Elements of organizational, instructional, and task distribution theories thread this study together and provide a theoretical framework to describe the intricacies of a principal’s role as an advocate, lead learner, and strategist creating a culture of learning. This dissertation presents a case study utilizing participant and observer relationships, various data sources, and summative analysis. The data collection included personal interviews, document analysis, and intimate focus groups. The research site is one elementary school touting a Title I Georgia Reward School designation for high performance. The results provide strong support for the following themes: (a) high quality relationships, (b) school improvement, and (c) high expectations. The analysis adds to the body of literature on high-needs schools and the collective work of the International School Leaders Development Network (ISLDN).