Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Education (Ed.D.)


Administrative and Instructional Leadership

First Advisor

Katherine Aquino

Second Advisor

Catherine DiMartino

Third Advisor

Anthony Annunziato


Utilizing a phenomenological approach, this dissertation explores how principals perceive and use their roles in developing and maintaining inclusive special education programs. Specifically, this study has examined principals’ beliefs and ideals in decision-making to support inclusion in classrooms. Its goal is to provide insight into principals’ perspectives on engaging and interacting with the community and school stakeholders for the success of inclusion programs. This study was conducted at several suburban high schools in the northeastern United States. The subjects were selected through purposeful and convenient sampling. The participants currently work in schools identified as having successful inclusion programs within the districts where the data was collected. This study has encapsulated data from individual interviews with eleven currently employed secondary principals and used open-ended questions to guide the discussion, examination, and analysis of artifacts. Today’s secondary principals are tasked with many responsibilities. Understanding how principals perceive and utilize their roles in developing and maintaining inclusive special education programs has informed this research and allowed it to extrapolate the role of the principal as it reflects Michael Fullan’s Change Theory (Fullan, 2001) and thus how it correlates and applies to other areas of school reform. The approach that the principals of these schools— deemed to have successful inclusion programs—could be used as models to help implement similar programs in underperforming districts. This research reinforces the fact that it is the responsibility of principals to demonstrate that they are supportive leaders. This can be achieved through collaboration with special education department chairpersons and open communication with staff and all stakeholders to understand the program’s needs and maintain the program through staff development.