Department of Educational Administration


Date of this Version



A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Administration, Under the supervision of Dr. Miles Bryant. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Gary Czapla


This phenomenological qualitative study explored the autonomy experienced by five Nebraska public school principals as they lead their respective schools that have growing Hispanic/Latino student populations. This study determined if the principals’ autonomy has increased, decreased, or been impacted in any manner due to these changes of student demographics.

In-depth interviews were conducted with five principals working in schools where there has been an increase of Hispanic/Latino/ELL students over the last decade. This study revealed that the principals perceived that they have experienced a loss of autonomy. This study revealed the principals lacked autonomy to manage resources and personnel they deemed necessary to be an effective principal of a building with increased Hispanic/Latino/ELL students. This study also revealed that community perception, poverty and language barriers—as a result of the increase of Hispanic/Latino/ELL students—impacted principals’ autonomy. In addition principals discussed the concept of tight/loose leadership and expressed concern on how tightly they were being managed by the district.

The following recommendations for further research and practice were determined from conducting this study.

Recommendations for further study

1. Conduct a further study with a lager sampling of principals.

2. Conduct a future study to determine if the loss of autonomy extends to principals regardless of student demographic changes.

3. Conduct a study of principals who have retained their autonomy despite demographic shifts in student populations.

Recommendations for further practice

1. Develop a consortium of principals who are faced with the challenges of having an increased Hispanic/Latino population to provide a greater voice in the state.

2. Identify districts who have found the balance of a tight/loose leadership system and then identify the steps those districts have taken to maintain the balance between the tight practices while also allowing principal autonomy.

3. Encourage college teacher preparation programs to focus on ELL certification of all teachers.

Adviser: Miles Bryant