Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer (Chair), PhD Leslie Boozer, EdD Fred J. Galloway, EdD


independent school, head of school, board of trustees, retention, NAIS, governance, board chair


According to the National Association of Independent Schools (2020), independent schools across the country continue to experience an increasing number of head-of-school vacancies, both expected and unexpected. Save for the departures by heads who are retiring or obviously chasing greener pastures, the reasons why an increasing number of heads are departing at a disquieting rate are as enigmatic as the departures themselves.

As part of its governance responsibilities, the board has unconditional authority over the employment of the head, including, most especially, the ability to influence the retention of the head. Unfortunately, since these boards of trustees operate independently, there is no easy mechanism for researching what factors, if any, might influence enigmatic departures. Information, in short, is hard to come by due to both the need for preserving confidentiality as well as the desire for schools to communicate departure decisions in as amenable and mutually beneficial manner as possible to minimize the inevitable disruption to the school community such departures create.

What can be more easily researched are the factors that might influence the retention of heads, especially those who are enjoying a longer-than-average tenure at their current school. Presumably, there are many motivating factors that influence a head’s job satisfaction and, consequently, their decision to remain at their current school. Using a mixed-methods approach to data collection that includes a web-based survey and interviews with selected heads from independent schools across the country, this study sought to identify potential motivating factors, including, and most especially, the relationship between the head and the board chair, and investigate to what extent, if any, these factors influence the heads concerning their job satisfaction and, ostensibly, their decision to remain in their current position.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies