All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Loucrecia Collins

Advisory Committee Members

Matt Fifolt

Gary Peters

William B Rogan

Foster Watkins

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Education


PERCEPTIONS OF PARTICIPATING K-12 EDUCATIONAL LEADERS' EXPERIENCES AND DECISIONS REGARDING THE CRISIS CAUSED BY THE APRIL 27, 2011 TORNADOES IN RURAL ALABAMA WILLIAM E. BISHOP, JR. (BILL) HUMAN STUDIES ABSTRACT April 27, 2011, will be remembered by many as a catastrophic day and event in Alabama, and specifically by K-12 educational leaders. Natural disasters like tornadoes have a significant impact on leaders, on their decision making and, obviously, on the survival of many of their victims. The possibility and threat of a major crisis caused by natural disasters is always going to be present. Organizations, businesses, and leaders at various levels will benefit from the lessons learned from the reflective study of natural disasters, and particularly, the study of the responses of leaders to them. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to collect firsthand accounts from K-12 educational leaders (superintendents, assistant superintendents, principals and assistant principals) who were directly affected by the April 27, 2011 tornadoes in rural Alabama. In-depth interviews were conducted with K-12 educational leaders in two rural school systems in Alabama that were directly affected by the crisis. All the individuals selected for this study were in leadership positions on April 27, 2011, when the tornadoes devastated their schools and communities. Multiple studies have been conducted on leadership and crisis management in higher education settings, but there is little research in the area of K-12 educational leadership during a time of crisis. Therefore, the goal of this study was to develop a resource of information that would assist current and future educational leaders to better understand situations that they can prepare for but never truly anticipate. This study revealed that effective leaders during a crisis have to take action, remain calm, set an example, communicate, and be resilient. During a crisis effective leaders must also be honest, trustworthy, adaptable, and serve with a moral compass. One of the greatest challenges for leadership is crisis preparation. Leadership must be prepared for crises and must be able to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and situations that they present. Leaders must be able to bounce back in the face of adversity. These findings served as a point of departure in organizing the results of this qualitative study.

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