Subject Area



There is an increased lack of trust that continues to exist in urban secondary schools among teachers and between teachers and leaders, particularly in the areas of taking the principal at their word, being able to express feelings in the workplace, and believing that the principal is an effective manager. This problem has negatively impacted the ability of principals and teachers to effectively establish healthy professional relationships and improve campus climate. This trust issue could be the result of an inability or refusal of the leader to address the gaps that exists in the relationship. This research study focused on the impact that a principal has on effective school reform through the establishment of trust relationships with teachers. The study explored the trust gap that currently exists in a high performing secondary school through the perspective of the five facets of trust that have been established by researchers, Megan Tschannen-Moran and Hoy (2000). It is clear to most educators that a trust gap will always impede the sustainability of school reform efforts if it is not addressed. The barriers to establishing trust must be addressed to see the changes in the quality of education that students rightfully deserve. It is important to note that this research study took place during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic while schools were closed to in-person instruction. Due to a mandatory quarantine and the onset of virtual schooling for school districts, the opportunity to visit the campus and conduct face to face interviews was not permitted. Therefore, my data collection took place through virtual interview sessions with participants. Close attention was given to participants’ responses when questioned about leader teacher trust actions and behaviors under normal circumstances and during the constraints of that were created by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was important to determine if the trust bond had been impacted in any way as a result of shifting from a physical school setting to a virtual school platform. The research study focused on a principal’s perspectives of the role of principal teacher trust in a high performing middle school. The study revealed a set of six guiding leader actions and behaviors, called principalisms, that were evident in the principal teacher interactions that occurred at the school. The principalisms allowed for her to connect with her team on a human level: a) The leader walked the talk and was dependable. The leader made it a habit to show up for her teachers in meaningful ways. b) The leader gave and solicited feedback which demonstrated her ability to hear and see her teachers. c) The leader allowed for vulnerability and was open, caring, and empathetic in the work. d) The leader engaged the team members in frequent touchpoints to demonstrate that she was present and visible in the work. e) The leader valued the contribution of every team member and expected for everyone to work for the good of the order of the students and the school. f) The leader articulated clear expectations by establishing parameters for the work and how it should be accomplished. In contrast, the study also focused on the tactical leader actions and behaviors that were displayed by the principal to accomplish short term goals while fostering intentional interactions that united the team around a common goal. The data collected in the study concluded that the presence of the principalisms and knowledge of when to use tactical leader actions and behaviors made it possible for the leader and teachers to establish a trust bond, maintain a positive school climate, and uphold the school’s high academic achievement.

Degree Date

Spring 3-1-2022

Document Type


Degree Name



Education Policy and Leadership


Dawson Orr

Second Advisor

David Deggs

Third Advisor

Watt Black, Jr.

Fourth Advisor

Roxanne Burleson

Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License