Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Committee Chair

Kathi Gibson


The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted teaching and learning, causing schools to close and to move students to remote learning. Many principals sidestepped the guiding principle for schools, the mission statement, and were instead on a mission to salvage teaching and learning. Environmental entities became crucial to school survival. The open system theory, which framed this qualitatively driven mixed methods study, asserts organizations like schools are strongly influenced by the environment, especially during emergencies. This study explored the extent to which select pre-COVID mission statements showed language similarity, facilitated tenets of the open system theory, and aligned with job responsibilities of principals during the pandemic. The 10 South Carolina alternative school principals in this study showed via survey data the pre-COVID mission statements supported their decision-making and allowed flexibility to connect with internal and external entities. Data collected from the focus group of the 10 principals revealed mission statements were similar in language with regard to ensuring the needs of students were met through quality learning environments. An inconsistency emerged from focus group data, defying the earlier survey data findings. Finally, the focus group revealed categories of language essential for supporting open system operations post-pandemic: language that supports student success, school community, and environmental collaboration or interchange and invites parental involvement. The study implies that mission statements can be critical to confirming purpose but must be flexible and the result of robust collaboration.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License