This research examined the leadership practices of rural primary school principals in the Otago province of New Zealand. Principals of large (>150 students) and small (students) rural schools served as participants in an investigation to learn how their practice creates and maintains effective rural schools. The goals were to investigate the interrelationships of principal, curriculum, and community and effective leadership in their schools. A mixed methods approach included a survey completed by rural principals (n = 63), followed by observations and interviews. Key findings were that leadership practices varied across contexts of large rural and small rural schools; having a local curriculum was critical; and, communication and involvement with parents and the community were essential. The survey had good psychometric qualities; validation through future research use is needed. Results are discussed in terms of factors to consider for effective leadership in rural schools.

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