Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Dr. Theresa Pulos

Second Supervisor

Dr. Katharine Rumrill-Teece


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to develop an understanding of rural elementary principals’ perceptions of isolation. This study posed the question: In what ways do rural elementary principals in Western and Central New York perceive isolation? The research design included semi-structured interviews of a purposeful sample of five rural elementary principals in Western and Central New York. This study utilized the theoretical framework of Ryan and Deci’s (2018) relationship motivation theory. Six themes emerged through transcendental phenomenological analysis: distance divides, power of networks, outsider syndrome, relationships are the foundation, wearing many hats, and building know how. Findings included that rural elementary principals feel a sense of isolation, specifically from social and professional networks. Rural principals who were not teachers in their own district have a sense of being an outsider and leading change in instructional practices is seen as not needed because what has been done in the past works. To offset the lack of networks district superintendents and regional BOCES should examine how to provide regular opportunities for principals to network with each other. Some rural principals motivated themselves to create their own networks. Federal ESSA provides funding for principal development and could be used to support networking and professional development of rural principals (U.S. Department of Education, 2019). Further research of the relationship between the rural elementary principal and their superintendent was recommended.

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