This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

A Superintendent’s Trust-Building Practices with Principals: A Case Study




Norden, Julie

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Researchers have identified the benefits of trust within school organizations from various perspectives, but little is known about trust between a superintendent and campus principals. School districts are under great pressure to increase educational outcomes. Structurally, educational leaders depend on each other to reach goals. The purpose of this case study was two-fold: to identify practices Alabama superintendents use to build trust with campus principals and to identify similarities and differences of both perspectives. Data sources for this study included five semi-structured interviews with four principals and one superintendent from a small district in Alabama, semi-structured meeting observations and a superintendent trust survey. Coding of all data points revealed four themes involving trust-building practices that the superintendent employed with principals, including 1) communicates, 2) empowers, 3) makes informed decisions, and 4) models norms. Analysis from both the superintendent and principals’ data included all four themes. On the other hand, only principals reported the sub-theme of risk-taking. While generally code frequencies across themes were similar for both parties, the principals’ perception concerning empowerment and communication was greater than the superintendent. Knowledge of these specific leadership practices may help school superintendents build trusting relationships with campus principals for the sake of district-wide improvements.