This study examined principals’ perceptions of faith-based schools in Southern California. A 6-item survey was distributed by hard copy to 217 Catholic principals affiliated with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and by e-mail to 218 Protestant school principals affiliated with the Association of Christian School International. The survey was completed by 148 principals (101 from Catholic schools and 47 from Protestant schools, 34% of population), suggesting that hand-delivered surveys yielded a higher return. However, the Protestant principals who responded exclusively online completed significantly more comprehensive written comments or transcripts to the survey. Both groups of principals revealed high parent engagement in both types of schools and the selection by parents of a faith-based school was based upon personal values. However, highlights revealed that these administrators placed a high level of importance on open and consistent communication with parents and being visibly present on the campus. Principals were present at morning drop-off, visible on-site throughout the day, and at pick-up. In addition, the schools maintained a current website, frequent parent conferences by teachers and principals, and weekly or daily messages using various technological forms. Principals commented that they desired that every interaction with the school was positive and informative. Principals indicated that parent volunteer activity tended to be different in the two types of schools. Catholic school parents were expected to volunteer to work at the school, and participate in fund raising activities for the school. These parental expectations were vital to the school’s financial base, as nuns continue to be replaced by lay teachers. In addition, Catholic school parents were required to supervise completion of a child’s homework and support school rules, such as children wearing uniforms. Protestant school principals indicated that their parents were active in school-based activities such as sports, the performing arts, classroom support, as well as in school-wide activities such as open houses and fundraisers. Although the Catholic and Protestant schools provided opportunities for parents to participate in the school decision-making process, few principals reported all parent school boards or parents making the primary decisions beyond participation in the selection of the school principal.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Church schools -- California, Southern -- Case studies; Education -- Parent participation -- California, Southern; School principals -- California, Southern -- Attitudes

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Hiatt-Michael, Diana B.;