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The Best WritersResearch in Educational Administration & LeadershipVolume:6, Issue: 2 / June 2021The Reopening of a School during the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Administrative LensJames A. Martinez University of Tennessee, USALisa R. AmickUniversity of Kentucky, USASydney McAbee University of Tennessee, USAAbstract ArticleInfoIn an effort to investigate school administrator self-efficacyduring the COVID-19 pandemic, two public high schooladministrators from the same high school in a SoutheasternU.S. state were interviewed virtually two times a week duringthe first six weeks of the 2020-2021 school year. Selection ofparticipants was accomplished using convenience sampling, asboth persons completed a principal preparation program wherethe lead researcher served as an instructor. The participantswere surveyed before and after the study using questions fromthe Principal Self-Efficacy Survey (PSES) as well asresearcher-developed questions specifically related to work lifeduring the pandemic. The study revealed the degree that theseadministrators defined their work experiences during thisperiod, based on four distinct perspectives, including: (a)structural, (b) symbolic, (c) political, and (d) human resources.Also, the study revealed administrator perceptions of equityand access among various constituents at their school,including teachers, support staff, students, parents, andmembers of the broader school community. Using openArticle History:ReceivedMarch 11, 2021AcceptedJune 14, 2021Keywords:Administration,Self-efficacy, Equity,PandemicResearch in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552516systems theory as a theoretical perspective, the study revealedsix emergent themes that related to their work while openingschool during a world crisis: (a) technology access/instruction,(b) informational/procedural ambiguity, (c) resourcedependency, (d) policy adaptability, (e) stakeholder disposition,and (f) methods of communication. Focused on a principal andassistant principal at a single high school, this case-studyilluminates the personal and professional challenges faced bythese administrators during the COVID-19 pandemic.Cite as:Martinez, J. A., Amick, L. R., & McAbee, S. (2021). The Reopening of aSchool during the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Administrative Lens.Research in Educational Administration & Leadership, 6(2), 515-552. DOI:10.30828/real/2021.2.5IntroductionThe importance of school administrators to address issues thataffect student health and learning in today’s schools cannot beoverstated. These issues were exacerbated during the COVID-19pandemic, affecting the manner in which schools served students,teachers and non-teaching staff, families and members of their localcommunities. Starting in the spring of 2020, school officialsresponded to the global pandemic in many ways, to ensure the healthand welfare of all school stakeholders. For schools which continuedin-person instruction, school administrators led the efforts to installhealth check procedures for all persons entering school grounds,mandate personal protective equipment (PPE), adopt procedures forcontact tracing, and enforce strict limits to physical interaction forpersons in their schools. For schools with some or all studentslearning remotely, school administrators worked with district officestaff and community members to ensure equitable access toeducational and computer resources, meeting demands that wereMartinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…517previously not considered. At the same time, these professionalsassisted teachers and students as forms of instruction were modifiedto increase the use of computer-based teleconferencing platforms,learning management systems, and educational software.School administrators spearheaded efforts to address theneeds of instructional support staff who support students receivingspecialized services (e.g. special education, English languagelearning, gifted and talented, economically disadvantaged). Inaddition to instructional support, school administrators continuedtheir efforts with participation in co-curricular activities (e.g. sports,clubs) while adhering to health and safety standards. As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to affect the entire school communities,administrators were required to effectively communicate up-to-dateinformation, using a variety of methods, about changes that affectedthe way that a variety of school stakeholders could engage in school-related activities. Additional professional obligations during thepandemic adversely affected the personal lives of schooladministrators, some of whom faced pandemic related health-relatedconcerns themselves, as well as those experienced by their friends,colleagues and family members.According to Bolman and Deal (2013), “life’s daily challengesrarely arrive clearly labeled or neatly packed” (p. 407). It is clear thatissues related to the administration of schools during the COVID-19pandemic are unprecedented in terms of complexity and scope. Thisresearch study aspires to illuminate the effects of this globalpandemic on the lives of two U.S. high school administrators duringthe first six weeks of the 2020-2021 school year. Participant self-efficacy and perspective framing provide a basis for understandingResearch in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552518the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their personal andprofessional lives.For the purposes of this study, the terms “school leaders” andschool administrators are not used interchangeably. In general, allschool administrators are considered school leaders, in their capacityto implement a school vision, enforce policies and procedures, serveas role models at their respective schools, and the like. However, notall school leaders are school administrators, as there are othermembers of the school community (e.g. board members, attendanceclerks, sports coaches) who contribute to the leadership of the school,but are not appointed as formal administrators. That said, the terms“educational leaders” and “school leaders” are used interchangeably,omitting any references to administrators not serving in elementaryand secondary school sites.Purpose of the Present StudyThe primary purpose of this study is to investigate feelings ofself-efficacy expressed by two school administrators in aSoutheastern US state during the first six weeks of the 2020-2021school year, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic. A secondaryaim was to reveal the degree that these administrators defined theirwork experiences during this period, based on four distinctperspectives, or “frames” (Bolman & Deal, 2013) which include: (a)structural, (b) symbolic, (c) political, and (d) human resource.Thirdly, it was the intent of the authors to research theadministrators’ perceptions of equity and access among variousconstituents at their school during the study, including teachers,support staff, students, parents, and members of the broader schoolcommunity.Martinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…519Theoretical FrameworkThis research is guided by the theoretical perspective ofschools as open systems, a subset of systems theory. In general,researchers use systems theory to understand interactions that occurin response to actions taken by participants within the system itself.Orren & Smith (2013) state that individuals in social systems “engagein input/output exchanges with their social environments” (p. 40).Schools can be viewed as social systems with interdependentelements (e.g. teachers depend on principals; students depend onteachers) (Ee & Gandara, 2020; Anderson & Carter, 1990; Parsons,1959).Related LiteratureSchool disasters are characterized by their large-scaledisruption and sudden changes in normal routine to the school andcommunity. In many instances of disaster, there are marked times ofuncertainty, unexpectedness, and unpreparedness. Disasters stemfrom many causes: school shootings; natural disasters that includehurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, flood, and/or fire; and biologicaldisasters that include epidemics or pandemics that often requireschools to close and considerably alter schools’ normal routines. As aresult, in the time of disaster, school administrators in the affectedschool are faced with unique challenges in leadership that includesupporting students, teachers, and the community; adopting new jobduties; and establishing a plan of action. Moreover, schooladministrators are responsible for establishing protocols that will beimplemented in a future disaster with similar circumstances, if itwere to occur.Research in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552520Educational Leadership in Response to DisastersEducational leaders are challenged under normalcircumstances, but even more so during crisis/disaster scenarios.Visibility, accessibility, and engagement, are stressed by leaders inthe midst of a school disaster, and these often involve creativeleadership strategies (Bishop et al., 2015). School administratorsbecome the link between the school and the community by sharing avision and providing support at the community level (Gyang, 2020;Stone-Johnson and Weiner, 2016). The creativity needed in leadingthe community through a disaster involves providing the learningcommunity important resources and involving stake-holders in thedecision making process (Gyang, 2020). A case study by Tarrant(2011) highlighted the positive effect school administrators have incommunicating with families after the school disaster and issupported by the evidence suggesting that community resiliencestems from a school administrators’ actions (Sherrieb et al., 2012).However, in unprecedented times such as a pandemic, schooladministrators lack useful information regarding changes to schoolprocedures, and this creates uncertainty among the schoolpopulation, parent population, and the community in general(Ahlström et al., 2020). School administrators in the future, though,can mitigate the level of uncertainty by encouraging participation inevents that provide advance training on drills and protocols that willbe needed in an emergency (Akbaba-Altun, 2005).Supporting the School and the CommunityIn times of disaster, the school should not lose emphasisplaced on students and their wellbeing, as well as their academicsuccess (Bishop et al., 2015; Imberman et al., 2009). Schooladministrators are responsible for maintaining a positive atmosphereMartinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…521so that students feel hopeful even when distressed (Akbaba-Altun,2005). According to Fournier et al. (2020), actions related to inclusiveleadership, where the school administrators hold the belief that allstudents have the ability to learn and value student input, areessential under dire circumstances. Sider (2020) suggests that, amongthe myriad of concerns that arise in a school disaster, equitable accessto education for students was among the most significant. Aneducational leader’s actions, on the other hand, can be limited as theyaddress inequitable access to resources for particular students. Not allstudents have equal access to learning technology (smart phones,laptops, tablets) necessary for efficient remote learning (Pollock,2020). Acknowledging that access is a high priority, it isrecommended that school administrators pre-emptively assess theunique needs of students at their sites so they can implementstrategies to improve student support (U.S. CDC, 2020).Additionally, school administrators are responsible for thewellbeing of the teaching staff, as teachers require unique supportduring a school disaster (Fletcher and Nicholas, 2016). Inclusiveleadership is beneficial to teachers as professional development isprioritized, collaboration is encouraged, and diversity of skills amongthe staff is celebrated (Fournier et al., 2020). Differing levels ofsupport should be taken into consideration, especially during aschool’s transition from in-person to remote learning (Li et al., 2020).Finally, school administrators become the link between the schooland the community by sharing a vision and providing support at thecommunity level (Gyang, 2020; Stone-Johnson and Weiner, 2016).Visibility, accessibility, and engagement, are stressed by leaders inthe midst of a school disaster, and these often involve creativeleadership strategies (Bishop et al., 2015).Research in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552522Adopting New Job DutiesDuring past school disasters that have occurredinternationally, increased workload and expanded job duties forschool administrators was required in nearly all instances (Hausemanet al., 2020; Bishop et al., 2015; Mutch, 2015; Ozmen, 2006; Pollock,2020). The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges for theschool administrators, and their responsibilities have increased incoordination with a heightened degree of accountability. With regardto a viral pandemic, school administrators are faced with legalchallenges in reporting symptomatic students, maintaining a socially-distanced campus, and enforcing contact tracing and quarantines.Moreover, the role of school administrators during a pandemicrequires regular collaboration with public health officials to protectthe health of their communities (Pollock, 2020).Establishing an Action PlanIn addition to supporting the school and community as wellas adopting new job duties, research studies focus on a schooladministrator’s role of creating a plan of action for the school in themidst of a current disaster that develops strategies for opening orclosing the school (Zhang, 2020; Ozmen, 2006). Bishop et al. (2015)contends that, in making decisions for a school in crisis, the preferredmanner is to act quickly. In identifying actions that will prove to bemost beneficial in planning the course of action for the school, aschool administrator needs to seek advice, demonstrate empathy,communicate clearly, and envision the long-term goal (O’Connell andClark, 2020). Fortunately, school administrators are able to learn notonly from their own schools’ past crisis events, but also from otherschool systems’ mitigation strategies used during a disaster. ByMartinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…523understanding past experiences, the school administrators can beginplanning for the future (Brown, 2018).Preparing for Future DisasterOne of the marked characteristics of a school disaster is theuncertainty that encompasses the school. This uncertainty can bereduced by pre-emptively establishing a plan, protocols, and/orstrategies in preparation for future disasters. In preparation for asudden change to remote learning, professional development andtraining of all school staff regarding issues related to technology,communication, and equity must be completed for a successfultransition (Zhang, 2020; Ozmen, 2006). Moreover, schooladministrators should be in contact with other organizations in thecommunity that play a role in disaster relief to determine the rolesthat will be carried out by these respective parties (Akbaba-Altun,2005). Thoughtful and intentional planning by administrators iscrucial to advance awareness in methods to decrease destructiveeffects related to a disaster (Stone-Johnson and Weiner, 2020; Ozmen,2006).To synthesize, the literature shows that regardless of theexternal factors and happenings, and even with added duties duringa global pandemic, a school’s focus should be kept on the wellbeingand academic success of the students. School administrators shouldcontinue to value students, fight for equitable instruction for all,provide sense of hope for everyone, and keep the wellbeing of theteaching staff of utmost importance. This study looks at the self-efficacy of two school administrators as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and how they define their work experiences based onfour perspectives: structural, symbolic, political, and humanresources.Research in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552524MethodA sequential, mixed methods research design (Teddie &Tashakkori, 2009) was used so that both quantitative survey andqualitative interview data could be investigated, both in isolation andin relation to one another. Participant responses to non-demographicsurvey questions collected prior to the first interview, coinciding withthe start of the academic year, were compared to survey datacollected after the interviews had concluded, a span of six weeks.Audio transcriptions from all interviews were completed and allmembers of the research team were either present during, or watcheda recording of, all interviews. Although the interviews wereadministered remotely and transcriptions were comprised mostly ofparticipant voiced responses to questions posed to them, field noteswere recorded by the researchers to include important visualinformation (e.g. expressions, gestures).ParticipantsTwo administrators serving in the same secondary (high)school in a Southeastern US state were selected as participants for thisstudy. Prior to them taking on administrative roles, assistantprincipal Rachel (a pseudonym) had served as a high school Englishteacher, while principal Steven (a pseudonym) had served as a highschool science teacher and coach. The selection of these participantswas purposeful, as both had completed their principal preparationprogram (PPP) two years prior to the study in the same universitywhere the lead researcher served as an instructor. It was important tothe study that participants had developed a level of trust and positiverapport with the lead researcher, so they would more likely respondMartinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…525substantively to survey and interview questions. Demographicinformation from both participants is provided in Table 1.Table 1.Demographic Information for Study ParticipantsParticipant Role Sex Age RaceHighestEducationYears asTeacherYears asAdministratorRachel Asst. Principal Female 31 White Ed. S. 6 3Steven Principal Male 33 White Ed. S. 7 3Note: Neither participant recorded in their questionnaire that, aside fromtheir administrative credential, they had been certified in instructionaltechnology.InstrumentsSurvey. Prior to, and immediately after, the interview portionof the study, participants were asked to complete a 19-questionsurvey, requiring them to provide demographic information and rate(quantitative, Likert-scaled) statements that reflected theirperceptions of: (a) professional self-efficacy, (b) work habits, (c)teacher competence, (d) estimations of professional support, (e)relationships with teachers, (f) equity and access of resources, and (g)organizational changes and professional concerns related to theCOVID-19 pandemic. In investigating options related to researchdesign, Creswell (2012) emphasizes that quantitative research is moreapplicable when researchers relate known variables, rather thanwhen they are not clearly defined at the outset (p. 13). Therefore,survey questions were taken from instruments developed in priorstudies focused on measuring school administrator self-efficacy(Bandura, 2001; Tschannen-Moran & Gareis, 2004; Martinez, Williams& Uy, 2020) and in the case of questions related to COVID-19, createdexpressly by the researchers for the purpose of this study. The surveyResearch in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552526was first completed by the school administrators the week before thefirst student attendance day and the second administration of thesurvey was completed six weeks later, days after the final interview.Both surveys were provided to the participants via email, requiringthem to print a paper copy, complete the survey by hand, scan thecompleted survey and attach it to an email message addressed to thelead researcher.Interviews. Participants were interviewed for approximatelyone half-hour per session, twice a week for the first six weeks of theschool year. Once a week (Mondays) both administrators wereinterviewed in the same virtual session. On Wednesdays, theassistant principal, Rachel served as the lone interviewee and thehead principal, Steven, was the lone interviewee on Fridays. Thetimeline for the interviews, as well as significant events occurringduring the study, is provided in Figure 1.Martinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…527Figure 1.Timeline of StudyResearch in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552528Note. � Combined interview with Rachel and Steven (Mondayseach week between 8/4/20 and 9/28/20, except for Monday 9/7/20where the interview was moved to Tuesday, 9/8/20 due to Labor Day)� Interviews with Rachel (Wednesdays between 8/26/20 and9/30/20)� Interviews with Steven (Fridays between 8/28/20 and10/2/20)The interviews were semi-structured, allowing forparticipants to depart from commenting only on the questions posed,increasing the breadth and authenticity of their responses. Theoriginal plan was to interview the participants in person at theirschool, but due to safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic,the interviews were accomplished using the Zoom teleconferencingplatform. Both audio and video content from the interviews wasrecorded in preparation for the qualitative coding process.The interview questions were created by the researchers toreinforce concepts in the study’s survey, as well as draw on elementsof self-efficacy as defined in current literature (Hoy & Hoy, 2020) andaccepted models of perspective framing (Bolman & Deal, 2015).Overall, questions focused on the following concepts: (a) self-efficacy,(b) work-related resources, obstacles and accomplishments, (c)vulnerable populations, (d) equity/access, (e) perceptions ofprofessional skills and knowledge, and (f) organizationalperspectives (or “frames”). Interview questions used in this study areprovided in Appendix A. Football games and athletics are includedas significant events because large groups of students gathered andthis could have contributed to when the school was forced to switchto virtual learning.Martinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…529Finally, it should be noted that two years before the studytook place, both participants received instruction in a principalpreparation program class taught by the lead researcher whichfocused on the practice of “framing” to better categorize anddiagnose work-related occurrences. According to authors Bolmanand Deal (2015), the ability to use frames “requires an ability to thinkabout situations in more than one way, which lets you developalternative diagnoses and strategies” (p. 5). The final question in eachinterview required the participants to identify which of the fourframes (structural, symbolic, political, and/or human resource) theymost associated with recent events.To increase the validity of the study, participants were giventhe opportunity to “member check” portions of the manuscript textthat directly or indirectly referred to their responses. This memberchecking and use of pseudonyms were used to increaseconfidentiality and ensure anonymity. Although assistant principalRachel was satisfied with all portions of the analysis which reflectedher views, principal Steven asked for minor adjustments to ensurethat anonymity was preserved (e.g. revision of a statement thatexpressed his familiarity with the school having been a student andteacher at the same site).There were a number of limitations to the study that were outof the control of the researchers. The most significant of these are thechanging conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, includingrestrictions prohibiting the researchers from performing observationsat the site. Also, limiting the study to a single school with definedcharacteristics (e.g. enrollment, percentage of students receiving freeor reduced meals, ethnic makeup, teacher qualifications) does notallow for generalizability to other populations. Albeit allowing theResearch in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552530researchers to treat the school as a “case-site”, revealing as much ormore about the school than the participants, the sample size for thisstudy is insufficient for any meaningful quantitative statisticalmeasurement.Similarly, there were some delimitations in this study, basedon choices the research team made. Since both participants hadearned their educational specialist degrees from the same principalpreparation program, were only three years out from having done so,and were serving in the same school, it is likely that many of theirresponses would not show a great deal of variability. Due to theinherent differences in professional roles (i.e. principal and assistantprincipal), one cannot directly compare results between the twoparticipants, Steven and Rachel.Data Analysis and ResultsResults of both quantitative (i.e. survey) and qualitative (i.e.interview) investigations illuminate study participant understandingsduring the first six weeks the 2020-2021 school year. Takenindividually, each instrument provided unique understandingspresented by each of the two school administrators. Collectively, thedata show connections between initial thoughts, day-to-dayperceptions and overall ideas that provide a comprehensive look atone school through the eyes of these two, public schooladministrators.Survey ResultsQuantitative data was collected by the participants as theycompleted pre- and post-surveys, gauging their feelings of selfefficacy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The pre- and post-surveyMartinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…531data were analyzed quantitatively using Microsoft Excel, as well ascomparing scores between participants.Researchers further analyzed the data to look at whichnumerical response was most common, which response was leastcommon, and how many questions the participants scored with thesame number, and which questions showed relative agreement ordisagreement among the participants.COVID-Focused Section (31 questions). Both participants,Rachel and Steven, completed the COVID-focused portion of thesurvey before and after the interviews. For these survey questions,participants were asked to rate each question on a Likert-scalebetween one (strongly disagree) and four (strongly agree).Comparing pre-survey to the post-survey results in this sectionrevealed changes in participant attitudes about their own capacity toserve in their professional roles. Of the 31 pre-survey questions,Rachel responded six times with a “strongly agree” response (19%),nineteen times with an “agree” (61%), six times with a “disagree”(19%), and did not respond to any question with a “stronglydisagree” (0%). Her overall pre-survey average was a 2.94. Rachel’sresponses became even more positive from the pre- to the postsurvey. Instead of five “strongly agree” responses, she jumped totwelve (38.7%), her overall average was a 3.35 when her post-surveyscores were averaged, and her average change from pre- to post-response was a positive 13.9%.Steven’s pre-survey average was 0.1 less than Rachel’s. Aswas the case with Rachel, Steven’s post-survey average similarlyincreased compared to his pre-survey average, an increase of 13.4% to3.22. However, some differences do exist in these data. WhereRachel’s scores were all twos, threes, and fours on the pre-survey,Research in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552532Steven’s spread the entire spectrum with ratings in all four of thecategories. Out of the 31 questions, he responded seven times with a“strongly agree” response (22.5%), sixteen times with an “agree”(51.6%), four times with a “disagree” (13%), and responded “stronglydisagree” four times (13%).Overall, from pre- to post-survey, Rachel dropped her scoreon only one question (3%), rated the same on twenty questions(64.5%), increased her score by one point on eight questions (25.8%),and increased her score by two points on two questions (6.5%).Steven, from pre- to post-survey, dropped his score by two points ontwo questions (6.5%), kept the same score on seventeen questions(54.8%), increased his score by one point on ten questions (32%), andincreased his score by two points on two questions (6.5%). Theparticipants responded with the same score to 15 questions (48%),responded within one point to 13 questions (41.9%), and respondedwithin two points to three questions (9.6%). On the post-surveyquestions, the participants responded with the same score to 16questions (51.6%), responded within one to 14 questions (45%), andresponded within two to one question (3%). Data analysis provided ameans to understand differences in ratings by Steven and Rachel.There were four occurrences where one of the participants increasedtheir ratings by two points from pre- to post-survey. All four of theseoccurrences occurred on questions focused on technology access andonline instruction.Other highlights from this section of the survey relate to one-point differences (twenty-one instances, seventeen increasing)between pre-and post-survey responses. In four instances, one-pointdifferences were recorded by both administrators while respondingto the same survey question (i.e. 10, 12, 24, and 26), two of whichMartinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…533revealed both parties increasing, while the other two questionsrevealed one administrator increasing and the other decreasing. Mostsignificantly, between the pre-and post-surveys both studyparticipants increased from “disagree” to “agree” on question 10 (“Ihave been effective in supporting measures related to equity forstudents and their families”) and from “agree” to “strongly agree” onquestion 26 (“I have adjusted my expectations for online effectiveteaching because of the COVID-19 pandemic”).Owing to different professional experiences during the sametime period, on question 24 (“I sometimes doubt my ability toevaluate teachers for online teaching) for example, Rachel decreasedher rating from “strongly agree” to “agree”, while Steven increasedhis rating from “disagree” to “agree”. From these data, it can besurmised that, although coming to their post-survey conclusions fromdifferent directions, both administrators ultimately felt able toevaluate teachers in their online teaching. Overall, these data suggestthat both administrators went into the academic year with high levelsof self-efficacy and they grew higher over the six week study evenamidst a global pandemic. These data also suggest that pastprofessional experience as teachers and the administrator preparationprogram completed by the participants may have provided themwith the knowledge and tools, and therefore the confidence, tohandle a variety of situations, even those which are ill defined.Principal Self-Efficacy Survey (PSES) Section (18 questions). Asecond part of the pre- and post-survey was not related specifically tothe COVID-19 pandemic, but asked the participants to ratethemselves on self-efficacy using the Principal Self-Efficacy Survey(PSES). For each of the survey’s questions, participants ratedstatements on a scale of one to nine, where 1 equates to “none at all”,Research in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-5525343 means “very little, 5 is “some degree”, 7 equates to “quite a bit”,and 9 means “a great deal”. The participants were able to designateeven numbers as well, to fill in the scale. The results of the PSESsection of the surveys are provided in Table 2.Table 2.Quantitative Data Researcher Created, COVID Focused Survey Portion(includes PSES)Question Rachel-pre Rachel-post Steven-pre Steven-postIn your current role as administrator,to what extent can you…1 facilitate student learning at yourschool? 7 7 7 72 generate enthusiasm for a sharedvision for the school? 7 6 6 73 handle the time demands of the job? 7 8 7 84 manage change in your school? 8 7 6 65 promote school spirit amount a largemajority of the student population? 6 6 6 66 create a positive learningenvironment in your school? 8 7 8 87 raise student achievement onstandardized tests? 6 5 6 58 promote a positive image of yourschool with the media? 8 7 6 69 motivate teachers? 8 7 6 7Martinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…535Table 2. (continued)Quantitative Data Researcher Created, COVID Focused Survey Portion(includes PSES)Question Rachel-pre Rachel-post Steven-pre Steven-postIn your current role as administrator,to what extent can you…10 promote the prevailing values of thecommunity in your school? 6 8 5 811 maintain control over your own dailyschedule? 9 8 7 612 shape the operational policies andprocedures that are necessary tomanage your school? 9 7 8 813 handle effectively the discipline ofstudents in your school? 7 9 6 814 promote acceptable behavior amongstudents? 7 7 8 815 handle the paperwork required of thejob? 7 8 7 816 promote ethical behavior amongschool personnel? 7 8 7 817 cope with the stress of the job? 8 8 5 518 prioritize among competing demandsof the job? 8 9 7 7Averages 7.39 7.11 6.83 6.94Note: 1-none at all, 3-very little, 5-some degree, 7-quite a bit, 9-a greatdeal; Themes (a) technology access/information, (b)informational/procedural ambiguity, (c) resource dependency, (d) policyadaptability, (e) stakeholder disposition, (f) communication methodsSimilar to results gathered in the COVID-19 focused portionof the survey, there was an overall sense of confidence reported byResearch in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552536both participants as evidenced by no scores being lower than a “5-some degree”. Rachel’s average score from all of the pre-surveyquestions was a 7.4. Those responses became slightly less positivefrom the pre- to the post survey, her overall post-survey average was7.1 which depicts a change of negative 0.28. Relative to Rachel’sratings on the PSES, Steven’s scores were slightly lower overall onboth the pre- and post-surveys. His average score for the pre-surveywas 6.8, three-tenths lower than Rachel’s average, and his post-survey average was 6.9, two-tenths lower than Rachel’s post-surveyaverage. According to the PSES results, Steven rated highly in self-efficacy heading into the academic year and remained steady in thoseratings.Of the 18 statements provided in the PSES, there was only onetwo-point change from pre- to post-survey which was on statement 8,“In your current role as an administrator, to what extent can youpromote a positive image of your school with the media?” Rachelrecorded an 8 on her pre-survey and then dropped to a 6 on per post-survey. All other pre- to post- responses were within one point ofeach other. To further highlight important results, there were sevenquestions on the pre-survey and seven questions on the post-surveywhere both Rachel and Steven marked their abilities with the samescore.That said, there are two examples of where Steven expressedgreater confidence in his abilities, relative to Rachel. For example,Rachel responded with a 6 on her pre-survey while Steven respondedwith an 8 in responding to question 10 asking, “In your current roleas administrator, to what extent can you promote the prevailingvalues of the community in your school?”. Also, Rachel scored herselfas a 6 while Steven scored himself a 9 on question 13, which asked theMartinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…537participants about effectively handling discipline. Alternatively,Rachel reported an 8 and Steven reported a 5 on both pre- and post-survey to question 17, which inquired, “In your current role asadministrator, to what extent can you cope with the stress of thejob?”.We can hypothesize that Steven’s higher confidence levelcould be contributed to the autonomy of his role as principal, orpossibly due to research that shows that men are more comfortablewith self-promotion than are women (Exley & Kessler, 2021).Interview ResultsThroughout the sessions with the administrators, repetitivethemes emerged from their answers to the questions asked thatdescribe dilemmas, achievements, and unique situations faced by thecommunity, students, teachers. The themes described highlight thechanging circumstances of the school and included: (a) technologyaccess/instruction, (b) informational/procedural ambiguity, (c)resource dependency, (d) policy adaptability, (e) stakeholderdisposition, and (f) communication methods.Technology access/instruction. During the first week ofinterviews, the school’s principal, Steven, described the beginning ofthe school year as going “smoother than we all expected it to be” withthe exception of virtual learning related technology issues. By the endof the first week, Steven stated that work to address technologydifficulties was the school’s “biggest accomplishment.” The next timeteachers’ comfortability with virtual instruction is mentioned by theprincipal, he observed that “teachers [had] developed a level ofcomfort.” The improvement continued throughout the sessions,including circumstances of school experiencing cycles of in-personand virtual instruction.Research in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552538Informational/procedural ambiguity. Additionally, in the midstof returning the school routine to normal, the administratorsexpressed instances of ambiguity that caused normal routine to bechallenging. The ambiguity in communication included directionfrom the school district office regarding COVID-19 policies thatimpacted teachers as they experienced the vagueness of contacttracing in the classroom and the uncertainty of the duration they willbe teaching in the classroom or virtual setting. Overall, theuncertainty infiltrated the school holistically, and in each new issue ofaction to take regarding contact tracing, school athletics, quarantine,or social distancing, “[ambiguity] pops back up, and it’s not poppingback up in the same like tidal wave it was before,” as said by Rachelin the sixth week.Resource dependence. Throughout the interviews, dependencyon resources, both material and human, appeared consistently as atheme. The technological resource in demand was an inadequacy ofinternet access for students who came from low socioeconomic status(SES) homes, highlighting a limitation the school faced in regards tobeing unable to ensure reliable internet access for all students. In thefinal individual interviews in the sixth week, both Steven and Rachelcommented that technology and access to resources remainedrelevant issues.Aside from technology resource deficiencies, the schoolexhibited a substantial need in human resources as well. The lack ofresources in this category includes the need for teachers withtechnology support skills, substitute teachers, and specializedsubjects teachers. Steven first indicated teachers’ skills were neededin the later part of the first week where he stated that “we don’t havea whole bunch of teachers that are qualified to do [on-site techMartinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…539resource], so the ones that are qualified right now are justoverworked.” In the second week, Steven cited substitute teachers asa “major resource shortage” and stated in a later interview that theshortage could revert the school to closing. Additionally, specializedskills and staff availability were needed for English language learning(ELL) and special education students. Although the desire for an ELLteacher was persistently mentioned by both administrators, on thetwelfth interview, Rachel mentioned that an ELL teacher was hired,but she remarked in the final interview that she was still concernedabout the ELL students “because they were not served for so long,and we’re playing catch up now and it’s a group that already wasplaying catch up in a lot of ways because of the language barrier.”Policy adaptability. The abnormal circumstances of the cycle ofin-person and virtual instruction warranted novel school and schooldistrict policies, many of which were developed during the summerprior to the beginning of the school year and had never been tested incircumstances that change rapidly.The most prominent included policy related to studentattendance and athletics. The methods and personnel for monitoringand reporting student attendance were altered according to in-personor remote attendance. He remarked that he was concerned that “thefirst time we’re going to hear from some of these kids this school yearis when they have to show up in court for truancy.” Fortunately, bythe fifth week, virtual student attendance had improved to mirror theattendance rate of a typical school year. Finally, Steven stated in thetwelfth interview session that policy regarding student athletics wasa “looming question for our football coaches.” Students planning forstate qualification in golf tournaments resulted in many families ofgolf players advocating for games to continue regardless of schoolResearch in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552540closure. Steven described the policy changes as “blanket sweepingguidelines” but there were many specific instances where anoverarching policy was not the best fit.Stakeholder disposition. The stakeholder disposition is used todescribe the inherent characteristics that the students, teachers,administrators, and school community possessed throughout theduration of the interviews with the administrators.Both Steven and Rachel stated early in the sessions that thestudents were compliant with mask and social distancingrequirements but had “disconnected from the learning processcompletely” in the third week, according to Steven. Rachel describedearly on her disposition as an administrator as her ability “to acquirenew knowledge in the service of someone else.” Steven attributed his“level of trust from the community” to previous work experience inthe school. Teachers’ dispositions were described in terms of virtualand face-to-face pedagogical practices. Steven noted that thecommitment to provide “high quality education” in the virtualsetting had diminished by week five. Moreover, Steven stated thatteachers who showed apathetic qualities in a normal school yearexhibit the same qualities in the virtual setting. The teachers’disposition mattered less about the setting of instruction but rathermore about their practices and attitudes towards instruction ingeneral.Communication methods. The majority of the communicationmethods mentioned throughout included information disseminatedfrom the district level. Rachel mentioned in the first session that shefelt “good about the people we have in the building…it’s just theinformation that’s coming to us from on high.” Communication fromthe district level hindered the administrators’ ability to have a clearMartinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…541vision of the policies being implemented, which ultimately impactedschool functionality, such as the distribution of technology.Additionally, communication between administrators andteachers, as well as between administrators and parents, embodied aunique therapeutic nature as described by Rachel. In two separateinterviews during the fourth week, Rachel noted that her job dutyreflected a “therapist” for teachers and parents in order to assiststudents adapting to online learning.Framing of Experiences. The secondary aim of this study was todocument how each study participant “framed” their experiences asexpressed in the interviews during the six weeks of the study, basedon four distinct perspectives (Bolman & Deal, 2013), namely: (a)structural, (b) symbolic, (c) political, and (d) human resource. Theseframes were presented to the participants, respectively, as itemsrelated to: (a) technical quality, (b) ambiguity and uncertainty, (c)conflict and scarce resources, and (d) commitment and motivation.During the interviews, the administrators were asked to indicatewhich of these characteristics was most dominant at that time.In their twice weekly interviews, both administratorsanswered most frequently that “ambiguity and uncertainty” definedtheir job experiences (Steven 46% of the time and Rachel 50% of thetime). Rachel described this frame as “trying to figure out again howto translate things and to piece together what different people hearfrom different sources.” Steven concluded in the final week thatnewly implemented contact tracing guidelines had left the school“with a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty when you get into the nittygritty details.”Aside from their shared most frequent answer, Stevenresponded 23% of the time that “commitment and motivation”Research in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552542(human resource frame) dominated his professional outlook, whileRachel responded with similarly eight percent of the time. Steven firstcommented in the third week that he worried that “the longer weprogress through this…it’s going to have a negative effect on (teacherand staff) commitment and motivation.” Furthermore, Rachelfocused on “conflict and scarce resources” 25% of the time, comparedto 15% of Steven’s responses. This connection to the political framewas first mentioned by Rachel in the second week in regard tostudents lacking internet access.DiscussionThrough surveys and interviews, two administrators from thesame school shared feelings of professional self-efficacy and themanner in which they “framed” their COVID-19 pandemicexperiences during the first six weeks of the 2020-2021 academic year.As school administrators, both participants were challenged to garnersupport for measures that were required in the first weeks of schoolbecause the pandemic. In the surveys and interviews, bothadministrators expressed a deep level of care for members of theschool community, especially for the welfare of the teachers andstudents at their site. Since both Steven and Rachel had served at theschool in the years prior to this study as teachers and administrators,they had established a level of trust with teachers, support staff,students and parents, in responding to the adverse circumstancesrelated to the pandemic.While serving as school administrators at the same site, it isclear that each had separate areas of influence. In general, principalSteven was focused on the policies and procedures needed toeffectively govern activities at the school as a whole, communicatingMartinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…543to entire groups of constituents, including policies and proceduresformulated specifically to address issues related to the COVID-19pandemic. Assistant principal Rachel was focused on assistingindividual teachers and students, serving in her words in a“therapist” role to allow these constituents to express their concerns.Regardless, the ability for each of these school administrators to beperceived as trustworthy was necessary for their relative success intheir professional roles. Participant descriptions of the ways theysupported members of the school community is well established inthe literature (Bishop et al., 2015; Imberman et al., 2009; Akbaba-Altun, 2005).The surveys provided evidence of the similarities anddifferences between the two administration timeframes, as well asbetween the two participants when surveyed during the same weeks.From the pre-survey to the post-survey, both Rachel and Stevenexpressed increased confidence in their ability to serve asadministrators. Steven and Rachel’s estimations of self-efficacyrelated specifically to aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic showed agreater relative increase than those attributed to the PSES betweenthe start and end of the study.Based on the results of the surveys, the interviews providedmore authentic and fine-grained information on topics central to thestudy. Although Steven and Rachel regularly expressed theirappreciation of students and teachers to adopt the use of technologytools related to online instruction, both administrators expressed thatsome teachers progressed more slowly with their application of basicskills than the students. When talking about technological resourceaccess, Rachel and Steven expressed more concern with the lack ofinternet connectivity in student homes (to support student onlineResearch in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552544learning) than the lack of availability of hardware/software that wasprovided to students. Informational ambiguity was consistentlymentioned prominently by both participants. Understanding theneeds of constituent parties during a transition was also well foundedin previously published literature (Zhang, 2020; Ozmen, 2006).Although both administrators were concerned with theamount, timeliness and clarity of information related to the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g. contract tracing and when/if school was going tochange from fully in-person instruction to fully remote instruction),principal Steven’s concerns were focused on the of district officecommunications to the school, while assistant principal Rachel’sconcerns related to communications which were internal to theschool. Evident in the review of literature (Pollock, 2020, U.S. CDC,2020), discussions of equity were ever present in the interviews. Bothparticipants specifically mentioned difficulties that low SES studentswere experiencing in obtaining access to the internet in their homes.The scarcity of resources was also evident during the interviews inparticipant choices of which “frame” (in this case, political) mostdominated their professional outlook. That said, “ambiguity anduncertainty” (symbolic frame) and “commitment and motivation”(human resource frame) were even more prevalent.Used as a theoretical framework for this study, open systemstheory was used as a lens to better understand an individual’sexchanges with their social environment (Orren & Smith, 2013). It isclear that the interactions between the study’s participants and thenumerous constituent parties in which they came into contact formedthe basis from which professional decisions were made. Althoughmainly focused on different tasks with a common group ofconstituents for the first six weeks of the 2020-2021 school year,Martinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…545principal Steven and assistant principal Rachel also interacted witheach other, confirming the interdependent nature of open systems.Motivated by the interactions and results of this study, theresearch team encourages future researchers to integrate data whichreveals the perspectives of non-administrator school stakeholders(e.g. parents, teachers, non-instructional staff, students, communitypartners) when exploring the dynamics of learning environmentsimpacted by large scale change. Also, inspections of administrativeattitudes of self-efficacy (using the PSES and other validatedinstruments), “framing” and equity from a greater diversity of schoolcontexts will serve to more generally describe reactions of a broadercommunity of educational leaders. 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Guidance forschools and child care: plan, prepare, and respond to coronavirusdisease 2019 (COVID-19). Accessed July 23, 2020.https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/guidance-for-schools.htmlZhang, T. (2020). Learning from the emergency remote teaching-learning in China when primary and secondary schools weredisrupted by COVID-19 pandemic.https://doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-40889/v1Research in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552550About the authorsJames A. Martinez is an Assistant Professor in the Department ofEducational Leadership & Policy Studies and the Assistant Directorof the Center for Educational Leadership at the University ofTennessee, Knoxville. He has served as a classroom teacher,principal, and accreditation chair for the Western Association ofSchools and Colleges (WASC).Authorship credit details: Conceptualization of the study, designerof methodology, formal analysis, investigation, allocator of resources,writing (original draft preparation and review and editing), andproject administrationEmail: [email protected]Lisa R. Amick has ten years of middle level mathematics teachingexperience, is now a Clinical Associate Professor at the University ofKentucky, and currently serves as Chair for both the undergraduateSTEM PLUS (mathematics) program and the Middle Level Educationprogram. Her research interests include teacher retention, earlycareer teacher support, the National Board process for teachers, andinquiry based mathematics intervention.Authorship credit details: Formal analysis, investigation, and writing(original draft preparation and review and editing)Email: [email protected]Sydney McAbee is currently a dental student at the University ofTennessee Health Science Center. She has worked as a researchassistant alongside Dr. James Martinez at the University of Tennesseeat Knoxville. Their research together has included administrativesupport of teachers, teacher retention, and administrative response toschool disasters.Martinez, Amick, & McAbee (2021). The Reopening of a School during theCOVID-19 Pandemic…551Authorship credit details: Formal analysis, investigation, and writing(review and editing)Email: [email protected]Research in Educational Administration & Leadership6(2), June 2021, 515-552552Appendix AInterview Questions1. How are you feeling about your ability to do your job?(researcher created)2. What main obstacle(s) are deterring you from performing at yourbest? (researcher created)3. What accomplishments can you celebrate? (researcher created)4. Who are the neediest constituents right now and why?(researcher created)5. How well do you feel you are attending to issues related to equityand access?6. How difficult is the task at hand and what resources areavailable? (Hoy and Hoy, 2013, p. 164)7. Given the situation, do you have the skills and knowledge (toadequately attend to the task)? (Hoy and Hoy, 2013, p. 164)8. Are commitment and motivation essential to success (of what youare taking on)? (Bolman & Deal, 2013, p. 311) (humanresource/symbolic frames)9. Is the technical quality (of what you are taking on) important?(Bolman & Deal, 2013, p. 312) (structural frame)10. Are ambiguity and uncertainty high (to adequately attend ofwhat you are taking on)? (Bolman & Deal, 2013, p. 312)(political/symbolic frames)11. Are conflict and scarce resources significant (to adequately attendto of what you are taking on)? (Bolman & Deal, 2013, p. 312)(political frame)