Current position: Superintendent, Cape Elizabeth School District, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Chris has served as a counselor at Eckerd Family Youth Alternatives in North Carolina, as a teacher of social studies and as an assistant principal at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Maine. He was named Maine’s Assistant Principal of the Year in 2008. In July 2008, he became principal at Gorham High School and in 2015, he became the Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Gorham.
- PhD in Public Policy with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy, University of Southern Maine, 2015
- MS in Educational Leadership, University of Southern Maine in 2008
- BA in History, Bates College, 1995
- Maine’s Assistant Principal of the Year, 2008
Title: Secondary School Principal Stress and Coping Strategies
Abstract: This phenomenological interview study examined the stressors and coping skills of four Maine secondary school principals. Previous research by Donaldson & Marnik (2012) and Wells (2013), revealed a gap in current literature regarding the understanding of the occupational stressors secondary principals face, their perceptions of the effects of stress upon their professional and personal lives, and of the coping skills they use to deal with that stress. From that review, research questions for examination were developed.
1. What characteristics of occupational stress do Maine secondary principals experience?
2. What do they perceive as causing that stress?
3. What coping mechanisms do they apply?
4. What are their perceived effects of an inability to cope effectively with stress?
Interviews with two high school principals in their first or second year, and two experienced principals with at least seven years of experience, provided a great understanding of the physical and psychological characteristics of principal stress. Those included emerging medical conditions, exhaustion, and challenges with eating, as well as anxiety, isolation, guilt, and anger. The principals’ stress manifested from interpersonal relationships at work, working conditions, and relationships. They shared positive coping techniques and factors at work and home that led to reduced stress and more successful relationships. Their negative coping mechanisms were neglecting family time, workaholism, and withdrawal. The findings demonstrate that high school principals experience high levels of occupational stress, and are often ill-equipped by training and/or lack of support by their school districts, to effectively cope with stress, or to mediate stressors. While they enjoy several aspects of their work, they are often overwhelmed by the demands of their jobs, and by the challenges of being supportive and loving spouses and parents. The findings indicate principals require more comprehensive training from university preparation programs, ongoing support from their school districts and superintendents, and public policy supporting their proper recruitment, training, support, and mentoring. If such efforts are not forthcoming, Maine communities may find it more and more difficult to find effective secondary school principals that will remain on the job.