Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Education for Social Justice

Dissertation Committee

Sarina C. Molina, EdD, Chair; Elizabeth Butler, PhD, Member; Joi Spencer, PhD, Member


Transformative leadership, social justice, critical race theory, racism, education policy, change readiness, mixed methods, North Carolina


This mixed method sequential explanatory study provided analysis of North Carolina (NC) school leaders’ dispositions in eliminating opportunity gaps, outlined in NC’s strategic plan. The study’s quantitative phase used descriptive and correlation analysis of eight Likert subscales around four tenets of transformative leadership (Shields, 2011) and aspects of critical race theory (Bell, 1992; Ladson-Billings, 1998; Ladson-Billings & Tate, 2006) to understand systemic inequities and leadership attitudes.

The qualitative phase comprised three analyses of education leadership dispositions and systemic factors in NC schools. The first analysis of State Board of Education meeting minutes from 2018–2023 quantified and analyzed utterances of racism and critical race, outlined the sociopolitical context of such utterances, and identified systemic patterns and state leader dispositions. The second analysis of five interviews of K–12 graduates identified persistent and systemic factors influencing NC education 3 decades after Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and within the context of Leandro v. State of NC (1997), where the NC Supreme Court recognized the state constitutional right for every student to access a “sound basic education.” The final qualitative analysis consisted of five interviews of current NC public school system leaders, for personal narratives of the state of NC schools compared to patterns from lived experiences of NC K–12 graduates.

The study’s findings suggested NC school and state education leaders experience a racialized dichotomy between willingness for change (equity intentions) and execution of transformative action (practice). Although leaders at the board and school levels recognize the need for inclusivity and equity, a struggle to transcend systemic challenges, especially rooted in racial biases and power dynamics is evident. This study may identify leadership qualities needed for change in NC to address systemic inequities for improving educational access and inform policy to uphold all students’ constitutional right to a sound, basic education.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Learning and Teaching

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