PhD in Public Policy

Patrick Hartnett ’15

Patrick Hartnett

Career

  • Current position: Assistant Superintendent for the Oxford Hills School District

Patrick has worked as a teacher and assistant principal at Oxford Hills High School, and served as the principal of Leavitt High School in Turner, Maine.

Degrees:

  • PhD in Public Policy with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy, University of Southern Maine, 2015
  • Master of Science in Educational Leadership, University of Southern Maine, 2004
  • BA in Political Science, University of Maine, 1993 

Awards:

  • Maine Principal of Year, 2009 

Memberships: 

  • MSAD #17 District leadership team responsible for personnel matters, policy and supporting principal leadership.

Dissertation

Title: Principal Leadership in Improving Rural High Schools in Maine

Abstract: American public school leaders face enormous challenges in increasing student achievement in the midst of increased scrutiny and decreased resources. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002 and subsequent reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) have engaged high schools throughout the United States in a national reform movement that emphasizes a federally driven accountability model. As a result, schools in the United States have, for the last decade, faced significant reform initiatives that require school leaders to increase the capacity and commitment of their teachers. The expectations and demands of principals have shifted from simply being building managers to becoming educational leaders who can communicate a compelling vision, build staff capacity, redesign schools and above all, increase student growth and achievement.

The purpose of this research was to explore the principal leadership in improving high schools in rural settings. This qualitative interview study explores the perceptions of the leadership styles and practices of three rural high school principals. Evidence exists that leadership is critical in effective school settings, and in this study several practices were identified as influential to school improvement.

The major findings in this study suggest that while the participating principals had difficulty clearly articulating specific leadership styles, the leadership practices they employed in contributing to their school’s improvement do, to a large degree, fit a transformational leadership framework. The identified five transformational practices influencing school improvement are: setting a common vision and goals for the school; holding high performance-expectations for staff and students; modeling beliefs and behaviors; supporting and developing staff and students; and focusing instructional programs. They also identified two additional practices beyond the transformational framework: establishing a consistent and orderly climate in their school; and hiring excellent staff members.

While the study is based upon a small sample of principals, the results do lead to several compelling conclusions. First, the transformational effect of leadership may not simply be a result of employing a particular leadership practice, but in the combination of practices yielding a synergistic result. Second, the practices identified have also been acknowledged in other prominent leadership models, indicating that it is less important to focus on a model than on the practices themselves. Third, the principals’ influence on classroom practice continues to be muddled at the secondary level. Finally, while leadership practices identified contributed to improving rural schools, it would appear that the practices employed would benefit high schools in any setting.