Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Education (Ph.D)


Administrative and Instructional Leadership

First Advisor

Joan Birringer- Haig

Second Advisor

Catherine Aquino

Third Advisor

Catherine DiMartino


This qualitative narrative study design examined the lived experiences of the challenges special education administrators faced in implementing federal and state guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The participants were comprised of special education administrators from a suburban county in New York state. Half of the participants were from a Title I school district. In the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools across the country to close their doors, forcing schools to shift to online learning platforms. This left to sudden shifts in the delivery of instruction, leadership, and support, and created logistical challenges for administrators serving students with disabilities. Through qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews and reflective journaling, coding was conducted to discover themes to better understand special education administrators’ experiences. The findings from this study supported Karl Weick’s sensemaking framework that portrayed the need for an increase in communication, collaboration, and support for staff and student mental health needs. Understanding the lived experiences of special education administrators during this time will help decision making, should another unprecedented challenge occur.