Principal Leadership and Prioritizing Equity in An Era of Work Intensification: Must Wellbeing be Sacrificed?

  • Donna Hazel Swapp Western University


This case explores the themes of equity, leadership, wellbeing, and work intensification. The case follows Jennifer “Jen” Barns, the new principal at Westfield Public School, a JK-8 school in Ontario. Jen is overwhelmed by all the responsibilities of the job. She does not have a productive working relationship with staff and is unable to get them to support a social justice initiative or take on responsibilities at the school. At first glance, it appears the issue may be with the teachers or even the equity agenda Jen is proposing to implement. However, a closer look at the case reveals gaps in principal leadership that would need to be addressed if Jen is to turn things around. Three teaching exercises are included to fully situate the case and chart a course of action that includes identifying the issues in the case and developing several leadership principles that would transform the learning environment at Westfield, foster sustainable school improvement, and improve Jen’s wellbeing. While the case casts an important gaze on the impact of an equity focus on workload and wellbeing, it provides the basis for a discussion of the pivotal role principals play in leading schools in this contemporary era of change.

Author Biography

Donna Hazel Swapp, Western University
Doctoral Student Faculty of Education