Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Education (Ph.D)


Administrative and Instructional Leadership

First Advisor


Second Advisor


Third Advisor



The purpose of this narrative qualitative study was to explore how politics affects the ethical decision-making processes of elementary principals. Participants were comprised of five elementary school principals, with varied years of experience, across neighboring suburban public school districts in eastern New York. Data was collected through two semi-structured interviews. Interview transcripts were restoried and retold from each participant’s perspective (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Nasheeda et al., 2019; Ollerenshaw & Creswell, 2002). The stories were analyzed and compared using the constant comparison method (Glaser, 1965), to develop common themes about political influences and decision-making processes. A principal’s own decision-making processes are a vital component of their job— a job that has changed drastically over the past several decades. Although there are numerous factors that can be attributed to these changes, researchers agree that the emergence of a high-stake accountability environment altered the school leadership landscape (Spillane & Lee, 2013). Beginning with A Nation at Risk in 1983, a plethora of federal, state and local legislation and policies have increasingly politicized public education (Godwin & Sheard, 2001). With the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the face of educational leadership continues to evolve, with politics playing an increasingly vital role (Hartney & Finger, 2020). Additionally, the Black Lives Matter movement has once again brought to the forefront the need for Culturally Responsive Teaching, which has also spurred a political debate regarding Critical Race Theory (Dixson, 2018; Sawchuk, 2021). Although small, this study presents findings that can guide principals on identifying, categorizing and utilizing their knowledge of micro-politics and macro-politics as factors in their decision-making processes. Specifically, the findings of this study identified the following five themes: (a) the importance of positive relationships with stakeholders; (b) finding ways to operate in accordance with one’s own ethical beliefs; (c) relying on a research-based decision-making framework; (d) negotiating a professional identity between manager and leader; and (e) the need for principal preparation, mentoring and experience. It also opens the door for larger conversations regarding current events and how it shapes the politics of schools, as well as the roles and responsibilities of building principals.