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Title: The dismissal of a school principal : the micropolitics of the critical incident
Author: McKeith, William T.
Awarding Body: University of Leicester
Current Institution: University of Leicester
Date of Award: 1999
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Organizations, such as schools, can be perceived of as political entities in which informal aspects, interests and power struggles, as well as co-operation and support building, help shape and define the organization. This study is an examination of the interplay of the micropolitical forces combining from within and from outside the school, Presbyterian Ladies' College, Croydon, Sydney, to destabilize and eventually unseat the principal. The culmination of this extraordinary period at this school is the critical incident at the heart of this study, a botched attempt at forcing the resignation of principal, Freda Whitlam, giving rise to her decision to resign a short time later. The circumstances and events surrounding these final months of 1976 are the subject of some detailed consideration in this study. The specific aims of the study include the clarification of events, key players, and their respective roles in the critical incident. A further aim addresses the extent to which Whitlam's character, gender, and leadership practice and style contributed to the critical incident, and to what extent did her achievements consolidate her hold on the principal's position? Further research questions include to what extent did micropolitics influence the outcome of the critical incident, and what were the micropolitical forces and how did they interact to influence the critical incident?;The case study method, using qualitative data gathering and analysing techniques, is applied to this study. Interviewing, supported by documentary searches and analysis, are the techniques available to the researcher. Interviewees include the subject of the dismissal, Freda Whitlam, the initiator of the dismissal, Chairman, Peter Graham, and members of the School Council, the staff, and the school support groups. Open access to sensitive documentation was granted to the researcher. Analysis of the data revealed a complex interplay of forces acting on the school which included national influences that were largely beyond the control of the principal. These external forces combined with issues and instability within the school to create destabilizing competition for power, and factional activity that unsettled the principal. Issues of character and personality, and leadership style, were significant in affecting the outcome. Freda Whitlam had begun her nineteen years service with great promise and youthful enthusiasm. She served through a unique period in Australian social, political and church history and became unavoidably entwined in the dynamics of these years. By the mid 1970s, the external influences had so intruded upon, and damaged relationships within the school, that essential trust and loyalty had been lost. In 1976, a combination of these external and internal forces culminated in the critical incident at this school.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available