Page 30 - Volume 6 - Issue 1 - DBU Journal for K-12 Educational Leadership

28 work, two principals came from another innovative model school, and one principal came from the innovative model’s national organization. In the case of all nine successor schools, the successor principal was already known in the district, which echoes the trend in the literature review for districts to hire candidates known to them (Blackmore et al., 2006; Gronn & Lacey, 2006). The research about principal transitions indicates that it can be a time of decline for schools and for school innovation efforts in particular (Fink, 2000; Fink & Brayman, 2006). The experiences of the innovative model principals reveal some areas of difficulty during the transition window but also areas where the principals themselves felt like they had advantages that propelled them through and past those transitional periods. Challenges for successor principals during their transition to the principal role fall into one of three categories: challenges due to quick or frequent principal turnover prior to their assumption of the principal role; failures in leadership of previous principals; and the phenomenon of founder syndrome. All three of these challenges are specific to factors that are inherited from previous leaders and not specific to the successor principals themselves. It should be noted that there was one challenge listed by successor principals that stemmed from their lack of knowledge about the innovative school model. Advantages cited by the principals in their transition included having experience within the district or at least close knowledge of the district to navigate changes. Additional advantages included receiving support from the national organization of the innovative school model and the ability to attend trainings on the innovative school model. Of the five successor principals who mentioned support from the national organization in the start of their leadership journeys, the annual summer conference was named specifically as an important asset for a new innovative model principal. Research Question 3 (RQ3) What are principal perceptions about their experiences of being a leader at an innovative model school and the maintenance of the model’s mission? In general, principals described their roles as more complex than that of traditional school principals because innovative model principals have the same roles of school management and operations, but they also have the added task of marketing their schools in their community to boost or maintain enrollment. Principals of the innovative schools shared a number of additional tasks that come with their leadership because their schools tend to be smaller than traditional campuses and because the demand on instructional leadership is higher. Principal participants in the current study mentioned instructional leadership as well as having to take on the roles of other support staff like assistant principals or counselors. Principals spoke of having to come up with solutions to problems with a team of teachers or in various shared leadership configurations that characterize change leadership or transformational leadership (Wagner & Kegan, 2006). Tethering was the term used by one of the principals in the study to describe the ways that innovative model schools have to stay connected to the model and its mission. This theme was the most significant of the entire qualitative study and was expressed by all 12 principal interviewees through two codes that made up 35% of all coded material in the study. These two codes covered the supports that principals and schools receive from the national organization of the innovative model and the various ways that the commitment criteria, protocols, and processes show up in the continued work of the schools. The processes and supports that principals mentioned accounted for three of the four pillars of the innovative model: culture that empowers, outcomes that matter, and teaching that engages (New Tech Network, 2016b). One pillar did not feature heavily in the study and was only casually mentioned by the principals when they referenced the innovative model’s learning management system for online project organization and student collaboration. Table 1 summarizes some of the key terms. The national organization, and all of the resources that were associated with it, were seen by principals as one of the earliest levels of support they received when they became innovative model principals and they see Steffany Gayle Batik, EdD