Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Lars G. Bjork

Second Advisor

Dr. Tricia Browne-Ferrigno


Schools have a responsibility to prepare students for the 21st century because the global economy demands a workforce that can adapt to a constantly changing and increasingly complex environment. High-stakes accountability for student learning is the United States’ strategy to ensure that schools adequately prepare students. This high-stakes environment requires school leaders to make curricular and instructional decisions intended to simply prepare students for tests. Yielding to the pressure to perform on tests often neglects students’ opportunities to think critically or engage in complex problem solving, which are both important skills for today’s workplace.

Some school and district leaders do not succumb to a narrow curriculum nor do they dictate tight instructional practices in response to high-stakes tests. They realize that they must adapt to external pressures while also preparing students for the challenges they will face. These schools and districts rely on organizational learning to identify problems and develop solutions. All members of the organization engage in a cycle of error detection and correction as a means to better navigate a complex and changing environment. This kind of school and school district work environment requires that the superintendent and principals lead in a way that fosters organizational learning.

This case study uncovers the relationship characteristics between three former superintendents and five principals in a central Kentucky school district that fosters organizational learning. The study of this district found that key components of these relationships were (a) decisions based on what is best for kids, (b) a reliance on continuous professional learning, (c) a desire to constantly challenge the status quo, and (d) a genuine respect for each other personally and professionally.