Theses Doctoral

An Examination of Urban Education Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

Nickens, Rabin

Despite the fact that principals have faced exceptional challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and play a critical role in school building and district success, particularly in times of crisis, their voices are not being heard and their needs are not being met by district-level leadership. While the literature on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on education is growing, it still tends to focus on pedagogy or the challenges for students, teachers, parents, and even central/district administrators, as opposed to studies that explore the plight of school-based administrators through data elicited from the viewpoint of school principals directly. Therefore, the purpose of this qualitative collective case study was to describe the lived experiences of grade K to 8 New York City public school principals leading during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, within-case and cross-case analysis of combined data from in-depth individual interviews and one focus group discussion with diverse New York City public school principals (n=5), resulted in the identification of five themes evident across all cases, with each theme representing predominant patterns within principals’ self-described lived experiences of leading during the pandemic – Response to District Policy and Governance, Community, Processing Own Trauma, Resonance of George Floyd, and Concepts of Leadership and Leadership Success. Furthermore, interpretation of these findings through the lens of the study’s conceptual framework illuminated the extent to which the experience of leading during the COVID-19 pandemic is grounded in established theories of crisis management, trauma, and culturally relevant leadership.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Young, Jeffrey M.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
October 25, 2023