The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological research study was two-fold: (a) investigate the lived experiences of secondary principals with more than 5 years’ tenure in high performing public schools in Southern California as they relate to resiliency, and (b) explore their lived experiences as they relate to stress and coping. Studies show that secondary principals rarely stay at the same school site for longer than 3-5 years. Since known research on principal resiliency concerns primarily high poverty or low performing schools, a need was found to examine why secondary principals in high performing public schools stay longer than 5 years. Interviews with the 5 principals who qualified for this study revealed experiences that they felt strengthened their resiliency. Common themes included managing the workload, applying personal experiences, dealing with difficult staff, and interacting with challenging parents. Stressors identified by participants in this study included negotiating district office mandates, ameliorating parent concerns, fighting personal breaking points, and handling personnel issues. Coping traits identified in this study included having a supportive significant other, engaging in activities or hobbies, interacting with peers, and laughing with coworkers. Conclusions from this study confirm that principals who are able to prioritize conflicting job responsibilities, use personal experiences with adversity to handle stressful situations, and keep a healthy balance between their personal and professional lives demonstrate resilient characteristics and are likely to maintain an extended tenure.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Educational leadership, administration, and policy; High school principals -- California; Resilience (Personality trait)

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Lund, Christopher A.;