Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction (EdD)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Teaching, Learning and Curriculum

First Advisor

Dr. Sophie Filibert

Second Advisor

Dr. Rakesh Maurya

Third Advisor

Dr. Christopher Janson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Shameka Brown


An interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) investigates how individuals make meaning of their social and personal environments. The primary questions that guide the exploration of the principals’ perspectives for this study include “How do Title 1 elementary school principals describe their leadership experiences in relation to student mental health challenges?”, “How do these experiences shape their perceptions of youth mental health within their schools?”, and “How do Title 1 elementary school principals understand the impact of external factors on their ability to address youth mental health challenges?”. According to Rousmaniere (2013, pp. 19–55), the principal has the most complex role in American public schools. The principal serves as the building manager, the administrative director of state educational policy, the defender of bureaucratic stability, and an advocate for educational transformation. Yet, like a factory foreman or a mid-level executive in an office building, a school principal is an administrator who is in charge of running the building on a day-to-day basis rather than making big policy choices. Standing between the district and the classroom, principals are described as “the assistants of authority" whose power is derived from others and who are responsible for implementing managerial decisions but have limited opportunities to influence those decisions. Therefore, this interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) explored the lived experiences and personal accounts of elementary school principals while offering principals a safe space to share their perspectives and the effects of mental health issues in their schools.

For this IPA study, data triangulation was used as a method of data gathering. Multiple sources were applied by the researcher, including validation from respondents, the researcher's stance, and memoing. These sources assisted in capturing principals' narratives of their experiences and provided unique perspectives that educational research has overlooked (Helal, 2016). This study also aimed to explore how the theoretical underpinnings of IPA support this study and how this research may serve as a guide for schools and districts to more effectively support and retain the large number of students who require additional support with mental health challenges.