The balance of power: a study of attitudes and perceptions related to the establishment of school councils

Hodder, Roy J. (1994) The balance of power: a study of attitudes and perceptions related to the establishment of school councils. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The education system in Newfoundland and Labrador, as elsewhere, has been described as a social systems model which depends upon either internal feedback from the organization or external feedback from the environment to modify its structure and functions. In recent years, both internal and external feedback have been impacted by changing educational and social conditions, as well as by financial restraints. In order to determine how the system should be modified so as to accommodate these changes, the government established a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Delivery of Programs and Services in Primary, Elementary, and Secondary Education. A number of modifications were listed in the Royal Commission Report including the recommendation that members of the general community, parents in particular, should have more input into school governance through the establishment of school councils. -- The aim of the study is to investigate the attitudes and perceptions of the major stakeholders with regard to the concept of school councils, as presented in the Royal Commission Report, as a means of increasing local involvement in school governance. The study was conducted in a rural area of Newfoundland and relied on both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Questionnaires were used to collect data from parents, teachers and students; semi-structured interviews were used with the superintendent, board chairperson, two board members, principal and vice-principal. -- A majority of parents and students indicated that they were satisfied with present opportunities for involvement by parents, teachers, students and the principal. Teachers indicated satisfaction with only the principal's input. Of the groups listed, the only two with which at least half of the parents and students did not indicate their satisfaction were representatives of the church and general community. -- Most of the parents and teachers agreed with the recommendation that school councils be comprised of the principal, teachers, and parents. Parents also agreed that other community representatives should be included. Neither of the groups agreed with the recommendation to include representatives of the church. Five of the six interviewees agreed that parents and church representatives should be on councils, four agreed that the principal should be present, and the reaction was mixed to the other recommended groups. -- Over half of the students and parents concurred with the recommended responsibilities as outlined in the Royal Commission Report. The only responsibility of councils that teachers disliked was that of sharing in staffing decisions with the school board. Interviewees agreed that school councils should authorize the raising of funds, communicate policy and practice concerns to the school board, and seek ways to involve parents. Neither of the interviewees assented to councils sharing in staffing decisions. The other recommended responsibilities received mixed reactions from both interviewees and questionnaire respondents. -- Most interviewees perceived that increased local involvement in school governance would create an atmosphere of greater awareness and ownership, and lead to an improved learning environment. There were, however, a number of potential barriers identified including a scarcity of qualified individuals to sit on school councils and undefined roles for the various stakeholders. Further, concerns were expressed that school councils would add another level of bureaucracy to the present system, be expensive, have too much control over local education, increase the workloads of administrators, and create conflict of interest situations for teachers. It was suggested that these difficulties might be partially overcome by encouraging the participation of informed parents, scheduling regular meetings, re-defining administrative roles, and providing sufficient funding, time and training. -- The findings of this study can be better understood when analyzed in terms of the impending power shift that will, in all likelihood, occur with the introduction of school councils. Presently, most control of local education is held by those stakeholders near the top of the traditional pyramid of authority including churches, school boards, and superintendents. With the establishment of school councils, much of this control will shift to those who have traditionally been near the bottom of the pyramid and have had the least amount of input into school governance, namely teachers, parents, and members of the general community. Considering the influential rote of principals on these councils and their impending relationship with school boards, school councils may also be viewed as a means of empowerment for principals. Generally, it seems that those individuals who are presently disenfranchised want more control, while those with the power appear reluctant to relinquish it.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5175
Item ID: 5175
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 104-108.
Department(s): Education, Faculty of
Date: 1994
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador
Library of Congress Subject Heading: School management and organization--Newfoundland and Labrador--Parent participation; School management and organization--Newfoundland and Labrador--Citizen participation; Teacher participation in administration; Community and school--Newfoundland and Labrador

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