Rachel M. Roberts, Ph.D. is a 2022 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Rachel Roberts at her Dissertation Defense.

From L-R: Dr. Harriet Schwartz, Committee Member, Dr. Lize Booysen, Committee Chair, Dr. Susan Katz, Committee Member (not shown).

Dissertation Committee

  • Lize Booysen, DBL, Committee Chair
  • Harriet Schwartz, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Susan Katz, Ph.D., Committee Member


Grounded Theory Method, GTM, human females, leadership, school leadership, school superintendency, feminist theory, intersectionality

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I have been an educator for my entire career. First, as a teacher and over the last decade as a school administrator. During my tenure, I have continually noticed the underrepresentation of women in the highest office: the school superintendent. This has vexed me over the years, and as a scholar practitioner in leadership and change, I have devoted my research to unearthing the inequalities and disproportional realities that exist within high-profile leadership, particularly the public school superintendency. Utilizing a grounded theory approach, this dissertation sought to better understand what happens at the micro-level, especially during and after the superintendent search and selection process, for women who successfully land a final round interview, but ultimately are not selected for the position. More often than not, women are quick to make the shortlist of finalists, and as nearly 74% of all superintendents are male (Tienken, 2021), yet only rarely get offered the position. Through the use of constructivist grounded theory methods, this dissertation reveals a navigational journey riddled with gendered and racialized-gendered experiences rife with barriers for the women who strive for the position. Despite these difficult and challenging obstacles, this dissertation found strength, resilience, and fortitude within the data and the following dimensions: navigating gendered and racialized-gendered experiences, living my core, drifting from self, The Big Kaboom, and finding peace. As a result, this study asserts three theoretical implications related to the experiences of women as they seek the superintendency. This dissertation is available in open access AURA ( and OhioLINK ETD center (


Rachel M. Roberts

ORCID Scholar ID #: #0000-0002-2356-7443

Rachel M. Roberts, PhD., is a recent 2022 graduate from Antioch University’s Graduate School of Leadership and Change in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Dr. Roberts holds a master’s degree in educational leadership, a master’s degree in elementary education, and a bachelor’s degree in Child Development. As a seasoned educational leader, Dr. Roberts has served public education in various leadership roles for over 20 years, in three different regional locations. Dr. Roberts started her career as an early childhood educator in Northern Michigan and is a proud former Head Start program teacher who has worked with numerous families on developmental milestones over the years. In 2009, Dr. Roberts was appointed as a National Head Start Fellow, which is prestigious and competitive federal fellowship program in Washington, D.C. During her fellowship, Dr. Roberts worked at the national level on federal program support, improving the National Head Start Program Performance Standards, and on leadership development within the Head Start Program. Post fellowship, Dr. Roberts served the students and families of the District of Columbia Public Schools, through early childhood teacher effectiveness programming from the district office and as an assistant principal at Tyler Elementary on Capitol Hill, a dual language Spanish immersion elementary school. While at DCPS, Dr. Roberts helped revise the teacher evaluation system and provided direct support to early childhood educators throughout the district. In 2015, Dr. Roberts transitioned from DCPS to her role as principal in Brevard County, Florida (10th largest district in the state of Florida) where her track record of improving student outcomes in high poverty schools is quite impressive. Dr. Roberts moved Odyssey Prep Elementary from a state accountability rating of “F” to “B” and Columbia Elementary from a “D” rating to a high performing “B” rating. Both turnaround efforts earned Dr. Roberts the accolades of finalist for BPS Principal of the Year in 2020, and the 2022 Florida Tax Watch Principal of the Year award, which is only awarded to three elementary principals in the state of Florida each year. Dr. Roberts currently serves as Director of Elementary Leading and Learning for Brevard Public Schools and is a passionate advocate for school leadership, especially women in leadership. She lives with her wife, Jules, and their menagerie of furry friends, Pippa (Chiweenie), Ruth (rescue cat) and Hattie (the new kitten).