Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Lea A. Hubbard, PhD, Chair; Frank R. Kemerer, PhD, Member; Joi Spencer, PhD, Member


board of directors, case study, charter school governance, confidentiality, Leadership studies, management, qualitative, representation, school administration, transparency, trusteeship


The charter school movement has been at the forefront of educational reform since the 1990s. The majority of charter school research has focused on academic achievement and issues of access, equity, and funding. Less attention has focused on charter school governance, yet evidence suggests that governance challenges represent a significant impediment to the long-term sustainability of this movement. This qualitative case study examined the operations of a board of directors in a conversion charter school. The study included observations of monthly board of directors meetings over a 16-month period (February 2008–June 2009), interviews with members of the board of directors and representatives from other key internal and external constituent groups, and document analysis of official charter school materials, including minutes, agendas, and historical documents. The period proved to be a turbulent one, with the resignation of the founding executive director, a failed search for her replacement, the dissolution of the university partnership, and the resignation of nearly half the board at the end of the period. The findings reveal three tensions at the heart of the conversion charter school governance structure—governance v management, transparency v confidentiality, and representation v trusteeship. Exploration of these tensions, and the ways they manifested themselves during the 16-month period, suggest several areas for continuing focus for both charter school researchers and practitioners: building the leadership capacity of boards and executive directors; analyzing Sunshine Laws, such as the Brown Act, with an eye toward helping boards more effectively manage these complex requirements; and finding ways to proactively and more effectively manage partnerships, particularly university partnerships.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies