Date of Graduation

2001

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Abstract

Fifty-five randomly-selected West Virginia county boards of education members, or 20 percent of school board members in the state, participated in a year-long study of school board decision making, specifically identifying factors influencing their decision making in regard to the 441 decisions identified. During the data analysis, four broad decision-making categories emerged: Board Foundational Considerations (17.4 percent), School District Personnel Considerations (20.9 percent), School District Infrastructure Considerations (33.7 percent), and School District Student/Curricular Considerations (28.0 percent). Prompts for decision making included personal feelings/convictions, the desire to do what was in the “best interest” of the district, its students, or constituents, and recommendations of the superintendent. Respondents also analyzed peer board members' rationale for decision making. Additionally, the study focuses on several matters relating to school board decision making, specifically development of school boards nationally and in West Virginia. Other factors identified include the role of superintendents, decisional rationality, school board group development (based largely on systems theory), school board culture, leadership, board member training, and board/superintendent relations. Two doctrines are proffered, namely that of the decisional in locus quo, the notion that effective school board decision making occurs through county superintendents' exploitation of the “space” or tension between state-inspired edicts and local leeway, with effective superintendents achieving such through recommendations made to school boards (so that decisional rationality will be achieved) and the idea of nolens volens decision making, the concept that school board decision making is important if for no other reason than state-inspired or centralized decision making prohibits school boards from simply making decisions willy-nilly, thus furthering ideals of centralized policymakers. Thirdly, the study concludes that the primary role of superintendents is to achieve decisional rationality from school boards, realized in part through superintendents' provision of a broad array of data and information to school boards. Several recommendations are made, including ideals to promote greater decisional rationality, partly through establishment of a state policy research center, more focused training and development for county superintendents, and an emphasis on superintendent recruitment. The study cites previous West Virginia research relating to school boards.

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