Date of Award


Access Restriction

Campus Access only Dissertations

Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Shane P. Martin

Second Advisor

John Coleman, S.J.

Third Advisor

Martin Connell, S.J.


The topic of Catholic school viability is the backdrop of this study, which examined issues associated with Catholic school sustainability and the possibilty for transformation. The focus was a case study of a single Catholic elementary school in a historically magrinalized community. The experiences and reflections of 10 heterogeneous members of the school community were examined in light of the school's attempt to transform and ultimately sustain itself. The study took a holistic look at the school's organizational processes in order to identify sustainability measures and characteristics. Methods included observation, interview, document review, and an application of the principles associated with appreciative inquiry, a tool used in organizational development and reform. The study's findings, viewed through the lens of chaos theory, are framed as tensions. Tensions here refer to the push/ pull elements in the shcool's struggle to find balance between new additions to the school program and what already exists (Pascale, Millemann, & Gioja, 2000). The findings are grouped as a primary tension, which is general in nature, and secondary tensions, which are specific to St. Leo School. The primary tension illustrates how a school undergoing change is marked by circumstance, unpredictability, co-creation, and resistance to environmental control. The secondary tensions detail the struggles over internal/external organizational control, Catholic school/market organizational principles, and staff and stakeholder retention/turnover. Additionally, it was found that the core characteristics of community, spirtuality, and justice act as binding elements that complement salary perks or tuition scholarships for teachers and students, respectively. Questions about the role of benefactors, school boards, and other external influences on the life of the school were also raised and examined. Overall, the findings supported the notion that Catholic schools in historically marginalized communities must seek innovative measures yet be able to adapt to a constantly shifting environmental landscape in order to survive.