PreK–12 Black Administrators’ Narratives in Urban School Districts


Jude Vales


Spring 2023



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Dr. Vivian Johnson


The purpose of this qualitative research was to understand what inspired and motivated Black leaders to join, stay, and thrive in public education in the United States, and how they can help bring structural and transformative changes in PreK–12 public education. This study centered on Black PreK–12 Administrators’ narratives working in urban school settings. For this project, I created a short background survey and conducted a thirty-minute interview per participant. This framework allowed ten Black preK-12 school administrators to narrate and reflect on a spectrum of challenges that they faced as well as their remarkable achievements in their roles. Referring to Black principals’ effective leadership among all, particularly Black learners, Bass (2020) stated that “to meet the needs of all their students, these leaders address structural inequality by enacting equity-minded initiatives that reduce opportunity gaps and manifest as caring practices” (p. 358). For generations, Black leaders have played a critical role in fighting systemic inequity in the United States public school system as instructional leaders and advocates on behalf of marginalized student populations. Bailes and Guthery (2020) stated that “only 20 percent of all principals nationwide are nonwhite, . . . there is a distinct mismatch between the demography of school leaders and that of teachers, the largest pool of principals. There are major inequalities within the country’s school leadership hierarchies'' (para 4). The fact that PreK–12 public schools in this nation, especially in urban settings, are composed mostly of non-White students underscored the need to narrow the current leadership opportunity gap. Participants in this study reported the profound isolation that they experienced due to structural White supremacy. The Black leaders recommended that to close the leadership opportunity gap between Black PreK–12 leaders and their White counterparts, two major actions need to take place. First, increase the pipeline from which Black school leaders are selected by raising the number of Black licensed staff, particularly teachers. Second, educational organizations that train teachers and administrators in the state where this research has been conducted must collaborate with policymakers to create organizational-led networking opportunities for potential Black school leaders.








School of Education Student Capstone Theses and Dissertations

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