Devolution in a Texas school system : redefining the efforts of three central office directors at the school site

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Moynihan-McCoy, Toni Marsh, 1945-

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This study contributes to an emerging body of literature on the devolution of decision making and resource allocation from central administration to more self-managed schools as a result of the efforts of central office administrators. Through the application of qualitative methods, this ethnographic case study detailed the efforts of 3 central office directors assigned to a change initiative to raise student achievement in a large, urban school district in Texas. Descriptive statistics were derived from an analysis of the efficiencies of resource allocations of money, materials, and time spent in implementing the change initiative. Qualitative methods included the analysis of documentary evidence: Bi-weekly televised school board meetings, the directors’ weekly calendars and daily e-mails, maps, the district and elementary campus budgets, audits, and state comptroller performance reports (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Control graph surveys (Tannenbaum, 1968) from 18 respondents; interviews with the 3 directors; and observations and field notes of the directors, the 4 elementary school principals, assistant principals, instructional coaches, and teachers were also examined (Wolcott, 2001). The theoretical constructs against which this study was examined included theories of devolution (Sharpe, 1996), change (Fullan, 2001), and human capital (Sweetland, 1996). Researchers have characterized central office personnel as barriers to school learning communities; the purpose of this study was to demonstrate that the content and process of communication and resource allocation were central to the directors’ efforts to devolve decision making and resources from district administration to school sites to implement a change initiative in their attempts to raise student achievement. In devolving central office decision making and resources to the CI Elementary Schools, the directors communicated intellectual capacity and influence through structured calendars, face-to-face meetings, and e-mails. In devolving central office decision making and resources to the CI Elementary Schools, the directors allocated their most valuable resource—time—to teaching and learning.



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