Finding Resilience During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Perspectives from School Leaders (Part 2)


In the fall of 2021, most California public schools returned to in-person learning after months of remote learning. This brought about additional challenges for our leaders, as their roles and responsibilities continued to evolve and expand over the course of the pandemic (Clifford & Coggshall, 2021). For example, principals found themselves in the position of bearing additional duties such as navigating public health mandates and implementing pandemic-related policies, exacerbating the job-related stress that they experience. In addition, recent research from The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP; December, 2021) reported that the pandemic conditions have contributed to alarming rates of principals who are expecting to leave the profession. Specifically, NASSP found that 4 out of 10 surveyed principals reported that they plan to leave the profession in the next three years. To minimize the already high levels of turnover, burnout, and work-related fatigue experienced by our principals, it is critical to better understand the levels of stress and stressors experienced by our principals and examine which groups of principals are most vulnerable to burnout and what factors protect them from burnout. It is also important to examine how the levels of stress have changed or remained the same across the distinct phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, as each phase has elicited specific demands on our principals.

To address this research gap, our research team collected a second wave of the Principal Resilience survey in the fall of 2021—a time when principals were navigating the return to in-person learning. Open to all who served as K–12 school principals in California during the 2021–2022 school year, this survey was designed to identify significant stressors and examine the psychological factors that protect school leaders from burnout during the pandemic, including principal self-efficacy and district-efficacy, sense of connectedness to the school and district, professional support, and professional core values. The survey was distributed by 21CSLA as well as UC Berkeley and UCLA Leadership Programs to regional directors of 21CSLA and networks of Leadership program alumni during late fall of 2021. Specific to the current brief, we included longitudinal data of principals who completed both the first and second wave of our survey, to draw comparisons between the two phases of the pandemic. In addition, we also included open response data about how principals have found their resilience during the pandemic, in order to highlight the voices of our school leaders.

Meg Stomski
Xueqin Lin
Hua Luo
Aukeem A. Ballard
Chunyan Yang
Publication date: 
September 1, 2022
Publication type: 
21CSLA Brief