Nora Malone, Ph.D. is a 2023 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Nora Malone at her Dissertation Defense.

From L-R: Dr. Laurien Alexandre, Committee Chair, Dr. Elizabeth Holloway, Committee Member, Dr. Shana Hormann, Committee Member.

Dissertation Committee

  • Laurien Alexandre, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Elizabeth Holloway, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Shana Hormann, Ph.D., Committee Member


board of trustees, comparative case study, Covid-19, elementary school leadership, head of school, independent school leadership, organizational crisis, organizational resilience, organizational trauma, principals, school administrators, school climate

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Publication Date



The recent worldwide pandemic impacted educational systems on a global scale, forcing school leaders to reimagine educational structures as they faced the ongoing wounding of the unprecedented, shared trauma wrought by COVID-19. Mandated U.S. school closures in March of 2020 forced an immediate transition to distance learning and presented unforeseen academic and social challenges for students, educators, parents, and school leaders. As school campuses re-opened over the next year, the pandemic continued to present hardships. School leaders were tasked with developing systems to follow appropriate health and safety measures, develop systems to accommodate stakeholders’ individual health circumstances, and communicate school policies regularly to those affected by them while still prioritizing the needs of students and their academic progress. Using comparative case-study methodology, this study explored the relationship between school leadership, school climate and organizational resilience in response to the ongoing wounding of COVID-19 from its onset in March of 2020 to the declared end of the pandemic in May of 2023, at two small independent elementary schools. This study illuminated the experiences of the schools’ leaders and provided actionable and transferable guidelines for educational leaders facing organizational trauma or crisis. The five key findings support practical implications for school leaders striving to support organizational resilience. They include: the importance of positive school climate, enhanced communication, adaptive capacity, organizational structure and embracing change. The study concludes with implications for future research. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA ( and OhioLINK ETD Center (


Nora Malone

ORCID: #0009-0002-9438-4799

Nora C. Malone has enjoyed a long career in independent schools, first as a teacher and school administrator at both elementary and secondary levels and then, for over two decades, as the head of school for an independent elementary school in the Los Angeles area. Her experience in educational leadership led to her long-term interest in understanding the relationship between positive school climate and organizational resilience. The emergence of Covid-19 provided the backdrop of shared trauma that invited her to investigate that relationship through studying leaders’ responses to the pandemic from its onset in the spring of 2020-to its declared end in the spring of 2023 at two independent elementary schools. The resulting comparative case study probes and compares the resilient outcomes at these two schools, and its findings present transferable implications for educational leaders who will inevitably face future traumas or crises.

In addition to her multi-faceted career in educational administration, Nora has served as a trustee on several independent school boards and also as a vice-chair of the board of the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and also as the chair of the CAIS elementary board of standards. Currently she is co-chairing an independent school board. Additionally, Nora consults professionally with independent school boards and heads of school on issues surrounding educational leadership.

Nora holds a BA in English, and an MA in Educational Leadership from California State University, Northridge. She also holds an MA and PhD in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, Graduate School of Leadership and Change.