Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, Ed.D.



First Advisor

Randy Hetherington

Second Advisor

Gary Beckley

LC Subjects

Catholic Church--Education; Catholic schools--Administration; Church school principals; Religious education--Research


This qualitative case study assessed the need for a Catholic Education Center (CEC) for Catholic school principals within the United States. The research questions that were addressed were: 1) How have Catholic school principals experienced support around complex and controversial issues when conflicting viewpoints exist between school and Church leadership? and 2) How have participants perceived Catholic Education Centers as a support system for Catholic school principals? Data were collected through semi-structured interviews, journaling, document analysis and the use of analytical memos. Two-cycle coding was utilized in the data analysis (Saldaña, 2015) process requiring numerous iterative returns to the transcript and enabling triangulation with the literature.

Miles and Huberman’s (2014) within case model was utilized in extracting themes. Data sources identified obstacles that currently exist for a Catholic school principal in addressing complex and controversial issues including the extent that hierarchical structure for Catholic school leadership was perceived to impede (or not) the conflict resolution process and what participants viewed as current and desired support for Catholic school principals. Participants’ responses indicated that partnership, frustration, and fear were common themes in a Catholic school principal’s ability, autonomy, and authority to address complex and controversial issues.

Responses from participants in this study revealed the need for a third party Catholic Education Center (CEC) with expertise in pedagogy, Catholic Church teaching, and best practices within education, to enhance the current level of support for Catholic school principals. Participants stated that, in order for a CEC to meet desired degrees of support for Catholic school principals, a CEC must have the ability, autonomy and authority to provide guidance on complex and controversial issues and only the arch/bishop may sanction a CEC with such ability, autonomy and authority. Participants believed that Catholic colleges and universities might fulfill some elements of support for Catholic school principals by providing a repository of documents and artifacts, maintaining a current listing of Catholic school personnel and their areas of expertise, and by providing expert guidance on the intersection of spiritual and secular requirements for principals.

The findings of this study support the need for third party support for Catholic school principals when addressing complex and controversial issues. A Catholic Education Center could act as the third party support if the CEC had the arch/bishop’s approval, granting the CEC the ability, autonomy, and authority to provide guidance for Catholic school principals.


Copyright retained by the author.