Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Educational Leadership

Committee Director

Karen L. Sanzo

Committee Member

Jay P. Scribner

Committee Member

Bridget L. Anderson


On March 13, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam ordered all public schools in Virginia to close for two weeks due to the on-going global health crisis; this closure was later extended to include the remainder of the academic year. This created a new political, academic, and social landscape for public schools across the commonwealth to navigate. In addition, to the external political landscape schools face, all public schools are saturated with micropolitical implications. Micropolitics, or the political interactions of values, power, organizational structures, and strategies among internal stakeholders, of which the COVID-19 Pandemic exacerbated, is concerned with the internal politics that are found within all organizations. As such, this study sought to examine the intersection and the response to the global pandemic, which emerged in 2020, and how micropolitics impacted rural Appalachian school leaders. Specifically, this phenomenological case study examines how one school district in Virginia navigated the COVID-19 Pandemic and returned students to the school building for the 2020-2021 school year. This study was framed through a micropolitical lens within the larger environment dominated by the ongoing global pandemic. Rural Appalachian school leaders, teacher leaders and administrators, at both the elementary and secondary level, were interviewed using a semi-structured approach. This study yielded several important findings which included the themes of masking, virtual learning, communication, and external pressures. Found within these themes were areas rife with conflict, the interplay of power dynamics, competing values, and the use of micropolitical strategies.


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