Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Jayne K. Sommers

Second Advisor

Diane Fittipaldi

Third Advisor

Aura Wharton-Beck



This qualitative study, using an autoethnographic methodology, explores laywomen principals in Catholic K-8 schools, and how they manage to balance their feminist beliefs and work in concert with their priest’s patriarchal orientation. Using interviews from laywomen principals as well as personal stories and perspectives, the study details the hidden elements of the relationship between priests and principals, where and how discord arises, and how laywomen negotiate the difficult terrain of balancing these relationships as they work in Catholic schools. The study explores the personal stories of Catholic school leaders, and also a precise examination of Canon law, Justice in Employment practices, school governance boundaries, unsaid rules and implications and how they perpetuate an imbalance of power that affects the performance, emotional health, and religious experiences of lay-women leaders in Catholic schools. Using feminist and transformative learning theories to unpack negative peak experiences or “disorienting dilemmas,” the study recommends additional training for priests and principals, and a keener recognition of priest and principal strengths and the gifts each contributes to the school.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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