This phenomenological study examined the lived experiences of high school assistant principals who lead the Exceptional Student Education (ESE) departments at their respective schools. The role of the school leader is critical and complex. Second to only the classroom teachers, school leaders have the ability to shape the school wide attitude and vision for students with disabilities. Knowing that in the past 30 years, the number of students with disabilities has nearly doubled in size, the expertise of school leaders in special education must also increase. Research on the experiences of high school administrators who serve students with intellectual disabilities and how their experiences and beliefs shape opportunities for students is limited. In addition, there is limited research regarding the prevalence of students with intellectual disabilities and their participation in vocational education and independent skills instruction to support independent functioning and future employment. This study used a phenomenological approach to examine the experiences and beliefs of high school assistant principals who supervise the ESE department at their school. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven participants (N=7). Through thematic analysis, six major themes and 21 subthemes emerged. The six major themes were: (a) compliance of special education; (b) administrators' role in faculty/staff supervision; (c) inclusion of students with disabilities in opportunities with their non-disabled peers; (d) lack of leadership preparation; (e) meeting student needs; (f) preparing students for life after school. This study concluded with a thorough examination of each of the major themes and subthemes, and provided implications for leadership development, induction programs for special education leaders, and best practices for serving students with intellectual disabilities.
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Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
College of Community Innovation and Education
Learning Sciences and Educational Research
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Vacchio, Erin, "A Phenomenological Study of High School Assistant Principals who Supervise Special Education" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 6591.