Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Gary L. Schnellert

Abstract

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this study was to identify perceptions of North Dakota leaders who had been involved in successfully reorganized school districts resulting from declining enrollments and reduced resources. All reorganized districts in this study were affected by serious declining enrollments in their respective rural communities. These successfully reorganized school districts developed reorganization plans and positive cultures within their communities that resulted in each plan being passed by a voting citizenship. The school districts studied laid the groundwork for reorganization with neighboring districts by forming cooperative agreements in athletics, shared staff, and shared special education services.

The researcher sought answers and perceptions from leaders of successfully reorganized school districts regarding the following:

1. What critical factors caused the beginning of the reorganization process?

2. What incentives were keys to the decision to reorganize?

3. What aspects of the reorganization process were positive or effective in terms of enhancing the process for all involved?

4. What aspects of the reorganization process were negative or ineffective strategies?

A mixed methods type of research was utilized. Board members, superintendents, principals, and business managers from 18 school districts were surveyed regarding their school's reorganization processes. Questions were designed to align with reorganization plans and determine what effective contracts influenced decision makers while moving reorganization plans through the process. Research clearly indicated that the number one reason school districts developed a reorganization plan was due to declining enrollment. Key incentives to decisions to reorganize were strong desires to improve opportunities for students by pooling resources and joining two or more school districts together, thereby maximizing educational opportunity for students. The research revealed that the most significant part of a successful reorganization plan was representation from all former districts on the new school board. County committee reorganization hearing minutes and phone interviews found that many schools joined with neighboring districts in the reorganization efforts to prevent their school from closing. Many of the school districts school boards and administration were already considering closing using the dissolution process because of declining enrollment. By joining two or more school districts together, school leaders felt strongly that not only could they keep their schools open, but they could also provide greater opportunities for their students. Those opportunities were additional student services such as additional curricula and extracurricular offerings. Research clearly indicated rural school districts will continue to see either declining enrollment or very little growth. North Dakota enrollment increases will continue to shift from rural school districts to either larger, urban districts or those districts with a boom in the energy industry.

Keywords: school districts, North Dakota, successful reorganization, rural, declining enrollments

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