Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Nicholas Michelli

Committee Members

Terrie Epstein

Stephen Burghardt

Subject Categories

Educational Administration and Supervision | Education Policy | Elementary and Middle and Secondary Education Administration | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social Work | Urban Education


community school leadership, community based organization, community schools, distributed leadership, community partnerships, school administration


The community school model is rooted in John Dewey’s (1902) conceptualization of the public school as a hub for the community. The model has recently been identified as part of New York City’s school turnaround strategy and continues to gain prominence nationally, because of this, it is essential to identify the key components of an excelling leadership partnership. This dissertation describes findings and recommendations from interviews with principals and community school directors in ten New York City community schools. These interviews were triangulated with analysis of the New York City school environment survey utilizing both faculty and parent responses. This study investigated the values, processes and behaviors of leaders that hinder or contribute to the partnership between community based organizations (CBO) and the Department of Education (DOE).

The research found that principals of community schools must undergo a paradigm shift, shaped by the understanding that leading a community school is different from a traditional public school, and requires specific skills and behaviors. Primarily, school leaders need to cultivate a distributed leadership approach, supported by practices of mindfulness and collaborative systems. To create a healthy school climate, they must develop processes to co-create school values and vision and periodically revisit how these values are being supported in practice. Community school partnerships are hindered by a lack of publicly articulated policies supporting distributed management, as well as an unclear definition of roles and hierarchy. An emerging theme was the disproportional cultural capital of CBO staff compared to DOE staff, and the author provides recommendations to address the accountability imbalance, which reinforces this dynamic between the two factions. School leaders engaged in this study expressed optimism for the potential of the model as a conduit for social justice and democracy in public education.