The Perceived Skills and Professional Development Needs of Administrative Leadership in K-12 Virtual Education

The Perceived Skills and Professional Development Needs of Administrative Leadership in K-12 Virtual Education

Author: 
Nichelle D. Stone
Program of study: 
Ed.D./ET
Abstract: 
This qualitative phenomenological study sought to understand the needed fundamental skills and initial professional development training administrators heading district-developed K-12 virtual learning programs in a southern state perceive as essential to their success in the hybrid or online learning program leadership role. The study collected data in two forms from 10 K-12 virtual program principals and assistant principals. The first set of data consisted of a self-reporting demographic survey. Surveys were used to determine eligible participants for the main study, in-depth one-on-one interviews. Demographic data revealed participants represented a wide range of educational and leadership experiences. The four core themes emerging from interviews involved: (a) transferring leadership skills from the traditional to the virtual environment, (b) redefining acquired skills for use as a virtual administrator, (c) understanding professional development training needed for successful virtual administrator leadership, and (d) acquiring training needed for successful virtual administrator leadership. The five conclusions drawn from the study were: (a) skills were perceived as fundamental based upon their degree of transferability from the traditional to the virtual environment, (b) many of the skills acquired initially by virtual administrators were skills redefined for application in the virtual environment, (c) the professional development training deemed essential was all geared toward acclimating new administrators to the virtual environment, (d) the training provided to administrators transitioning to leadership of district virtual programs is grossly inadequate, and (e) almost all training received after transitioning to the virtual environment was informal and not specifically geared for leadership in the virtual environment.
Dedication: 
I dedicate this dissertation to my Lord, my Savior, and my Daddy, Jesus Christ, because the pursuit of a doctoral degree was solely out of obedience to Him. Although I had no plans of further educational pursuits after completing my master’s degree, God was apparently looking at a different set of blueprints for the intended course of my life. This doctoral journey has not been one traveled without instances of roadblocks, potholes, or unanticipated road conditions. But, the growth I have encountered both personally and professionally through my pursuit of this doctorate degree has made achieving this goal worth every stressful moment spent making my way to the finish line! I truly believe Paul was speaking to me about this work when he said in Philippians 1:6 that He who began a good work in me would continue that work until the day of Christ’s return, developing and perfecting that work in me until His plan for me and my life was fully complete. I am by no means a completed work, but the canvas looks a great deal better now than it did when I first embarked upon this journey. I expectantly look forward to the paths my Daddy directs me onto next!.
Acknowledgements: 
I would first like to thank all the friends and family who supported and encouraged me through the pursuit of this degree. During my Year 1 Residency, one of the professors mentioned the importance of having a support system to completing this degree program. Although I gave his words little thought when they were spoken, I realize now how very true they were. It was only through the encouragement, listening ears, and emotional support of friends and family that I have been able to complete this dissertation and doctoral program. A special acknowledgement is extended to my former co-worker, Dewitt Robinson, who consistently called me “Dr. Stone” whenever our paths crossed. I will never forget his response of “Well, maybe it’s prophetic.” when I finally corrected him and said I did not possess those credentials. I have no doubt that God placed him in my path “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Third, I would like to thank all the K-12 virtual administrators who agreed to participate in my study. Without your assistance and invaluable insight into the world of K-12 virtual leadership, completing this dissertation would not have been possible. Fourth, I would like to thank my dissertation chair, Dr. Marie J. Abram, for her expertise in the art of technical writing. I have no doubt that I have created a technically well-written dissertation because of her assistance. I also extend thanks to her for assisting me with ensuring that the words I have written could be understood by the layman. Her repeated question of “Can this be simplified?” will forever ring in my head (smile). Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Sylvia M. Johnson and Dr. Jacqueline Mangieri, my dissertation committee, for their part in helping me complete this leg of the journey. However, a special thanks is extended to Dr. J, as I affectionately refer to her, for encouraging me, guiding me through this process, and talking me off the ledge when my frustrations grew beyond what I believed at the moment I could bear. Dr. J., you will never know how much I love you and appreciate all that you have done for me! As with Dewitt, I KNOW that God placed you in my life “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).