Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Education




Dr. Katina Pollock


This dissertation explores how secondary principals understand and negotiate the secondary vice-principal role. The principal assigns vice-principal duties so there is no standard description for the vice-principal role (Ontario Ministry of Education, 1990). My conceptual framework, based on the notions of role and work, informed the study.

Using an interpretive basic, generic qualitative study approach, I conducted single 60 to 90 minute semi-structured interviews with 13 secondary principals from four Ontario district school boards. Data analysis was on-going and used a modified version of the constant comparative method for themes to emerge.

Findings indicated that secondary principals expect their vice-principals to perform both operational and instructional tasks, although the school day remains dominated by operational duties related to supporting students and staff. Duties are determined collaboratively and are based on strengths, interests, and areas of growth. The secondary principals provide their vice-principals with short-term supports through mentoring and consulting for collaborative problem solving and decision making, and long-term supports through coaching conversations and opportunities to perform the full spectrum of vice-principal duties. Challenges include the frequent change to the administrative teams and increased workload. Using the neoliberal approach to education as a context, I identified three tensions: (1) secondary principal and vice-principal roles are similar, (2) vice-principals find it difficult to prioritize or balance their operational and instructional duties, and (3) the composition of the administrative team.

Implications include revisiting the number of vice-principals assigned to high schools and exploring a reconfiguration of the secondary vice-principal role so there can be better balance between operational and instructional tasks.